Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Learners Permit

Oldest son turned 16 over the summer and of course that only means one thing in NJ - getting your learners permit to drive.

Here in the Garden State a 16 year old must take 6 hours of professional drivers training which must speak volumes about the environment around the young new driver. Our state government decided that professional training is required before you get behind the wheel of an automobile as a 16 year old.

Well $300 dollars and 3 months later that part of the experience was complete and Oldest Son was ready to start driving behind the wheel of cars that I owed. The permit arrived on a rainy Wednesday when we needed Bleu Cheese dressing for dinner. I didn't know it had arrived when I demanded that we had to have Bleu Cheese with the buffalo chicken. I was thinking that I would jump in the car and race over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G and has now gone downhill and we don't shop there any more except for Bleu Cheese Dressing right before dinner.

But I digress.

When I said I had to have Bleu Cheese Dressing, Mrs F suggested Oldest Son drive over the Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G.

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I don't think I was fully prepared for the moment. Wasn't just yesterday when She woke me up and said "the stick turned pink"? And now He was going to drive me over to the store.

I said "sure".

We went out to the the small car. My drive-to-the-train-station-car and he got in the drivers seat. I got in the passenger seat, a seat to which I am not accustomed. Ever.

He put on his seat belt and started the car. Actually he started the car once and then sprung the key into the starter position again making a grinding noise.

You have no idea what they don't know.

The state of New jersey only makes it worse by making them spend 6 hours in a "professional" setting because then you don't know what they know about driving and what they don't.

After the starter episode he turned on the lights to the first position, the "parking lights" (what the are these for anyway? In thirty years I have never driven anywhere with just these lights on).

Lesson one: These are the head lights. You need them to see.

I decided that a little refresher of all the switches and knobs was in order. Windshield wipers, emergency brakes, seat adjustment. Check, check and check.

We were ready and he drove off into our cul de sac. There is nothing more frightening then realizing that you have just turned over a 1500 lb automobile to someone whose skills as a driver are a complete unknown.

As he turned around in the dead end I tried not to show my panic. "You are doing great" I told him and he was, it was the truth. I just felt helpless.

As we drove off our street and through the development to the exit we talked about a strategy for approaching the Stop and Shop and parking the car. I realized there was another skill I had taken for granted: parking.

Over all he did great except for making a right without being able to see all the way up the street and we were back in 15 minutes.

Mrs F said that she would let him drive home all the way from the High School after she picked him up from Band the next day but I told her "you are not ready for this" .

Since that night I grown accustomed to letting him drive.
It's not easy but I am better at it. He was always fine - I had the problem.

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