Tuesday, October 14, 2008

View from The Passenger Seat

It was a beautiful, Autumn afternoon as Jenna and I left King Richard's Faire. We had a great day. Instead of our usual run of the various games and contests we instead just walked around and people watched while taking in the various sights and sounds. It was a fantastic day.
We were driving down Route 58 north, heading for Halifax. The windows were down and my right hand (read:clenched fist) was hanging outside of the car while my left hand rested on the emergency brake.
"You're doing fine, Jenna."
There was no reply other than a quick "OK" as she scanned the road ahead of us. We drove along peacefully while inside I was more nervous then I hope I let on.
When we arrived at King Richard's Faire Jenna proudly opened her pocketbook and said "Look! I have my permit!"
Indeed she did.
It was right there in front of me in black and white. According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts my daughter is allowed to drive a car. To me, not so much. As we were leaving King Richard's Faire she asked, "Can I drive the car?"
"Why not?"
We walked in silence for a moment or two more, then, "Can I really not drive the car?"
"Why not?"
"You really don't have a good reason at all for not letting me drive right now, do you?"
"Nope. Not at all."
She laughed. So did I.
Jenna and I have been reviewing the rules of the road for awhile now; to the point where she points out my own indiscretions as we travel the highways and byways of Massachusetts. From my own experience I know that Jenna needs to physically do things in order to get a sense of them. Her Mom had let her drive around Scituate the day before so she already had logged a whole 20 minutes of drive time. I assessed the risk and concluded that Route 58 on a Saturday afternoon was a safe place for student driving.
Once we left King Richard's Faire I drove out of the fairgrounds, through the police presence and the road cones until we reached a mini-mall. I pulled into a drug store parking lot, turned off the car and handed my daughter the keys. We switched seats and I watched (very) closely as she pulled the seat up to a comfortable position, adjusted the mirrors (all three of them), and checked the location of all the gauges. The key in position, she put her foot on the brake and the Saab roared to life. She looked around, decided on the all clear and backed out into the parking lot. She stopped at the exit to Route 53, looked left, right then left again and pulled out into traffic.
Off we went.
It's amazing how fast 35 mph feels when I'm in the passenger seat and my 16 year-old daughter is driving the car.
I would point out when an intersection was coming up or if she was hugging the shoulder a little too closely. However, nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
At one point we were riding behind an elderly driver who kept braking for invisible things. Jenna was very conscientious of this car and the erratic driver who, at Shaw's, came to a near-dead stop in the middle of the road. In my mind we were approaching this car awfully fast.
"Brake," I said calmly.
Still approaching.
"Brake," I said a little less calmly while pressing my right foot down on the imaginary passenger side brake.
The car slowed to a stop, right where we should have stopped.
"Dad, I was braking. I had everything under control."
I was immediately reminded of this exact same conversation with my own Mother as I drove the Vega wagon to Pembroke Center one cold, Autumn day in 1982. Same tone of terror in her voice, same calm reply from the student driver.
I smiled at the memory.
Soon, the old woman found what she was looking for and we left her behind to run her errands. We were on our way to visit my Dad. I figured that he'd get a kick out of this so I let Jenna drive all the way to his house, where he was waiting on the front porch for our arrival. The look on his face as we pulled up to the house was priceless.
For the record, she did a great job and I am very proud of her.
Last Saturday afternoon my daughter and I enjoyed an Autumn drive. One down memory lane, the other one mile closer on the road to her adulthood.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

God I feel old. I never had one of these driving moments with my folks. I started driving so young, that by the time I had my permit, it was old hat. I went from driver's ed, to the registry for my license. That was it. I think it would have been a lot nicer to do it your way.

11:40 AM, October 14, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

It seems like not too long ago that I remember my Dad teaching me hill starts with the old 5-speed Bobcat. You remember that one don't you...it's the one that The Tick and Arthur drove across country. I taught my nieces, Sarah and Theresa, hill starts on the exact same hill in Pembroke that I learned on. I can still smell the clutch. Ahhh...the good ol' days.

12:03 AM, October 15, 2008  

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