License to Run Errands

If you’re wondering why there are so many horrendous drivers on the road, I’ve got the answer: it takes exactly six minutes to pass a driving test. At least that’s how long it took my daughter–the one who, en route to the test, swerved around a turning car without checking her rear-view mirror.

This is what her test consisted of: first,  she had to roll down the windows, which wasn’t as easy it sounds because we were in a borrowed car. (In Massachusetts you have to take the test in a vehicle with a center emergency brake–presumably so the instructor can yank up on the handle if you veer wildly out of control–and she couldn’t immediately find the controls.) She demonstrated her hand signals; then, on the quiet roads around the RMV, she turned left, turned right at a stop sign, drove a block, parallel parked (with a car only in front), backed up 20 feet in a straight line, performed a three-point turn (even though the Mini Cooper she was driving simply could have pulled a U-turn), “secured the vehicle” on a slight incline (ie turned wheels toward curb), parked the proper distance in front of a fire hydrant, and stopped at a traffic light.

Just as I thought, “Now we’ll see how she does on a busy road,” the instructor directed her back into the RMV parking lot. Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream. Why don’t you ask her to change lanes? Navigate a four-way intersection? Merge into heavy traffic on a highway under construction? React to an urgently buzzing cellphone? Admonish her friends not to drink beer in the back seat?

But I didn’t. I was too busy thinking about all the errands I no longer needed to run and carpools I didn’t have to drive.

Even before my daughter had stopped the car and shifted into park, the lady was stamping her permit. “Congratulations,” she said. “You did a good job.” Pathetically, I teared up, which I realize is sort of a Pavlovian response to any rite of passage I witness in my children.

“Mazel Tov!” I said after the instructor left. She looked shell-shocked. “I’m kind of freaking out right now! Mommy, YAY, I just got my license!!”

I was kind of freaking out, too. But there was no turning back. “Do you want to drive home?” I asked. She didn’t. She had a lot of texting to do.

Courtesy of Allstate

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About Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg spent 22 years as a journalist for Newsweek Magazine. She now works as a writer, editor, teacher, and parent of three children, with whom she strives always to maintain a varnish-free relationship.
This entry was posted in Family life, Parenting, Reality check, Teenagers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to License to Run Errands

  1. Susan says:

    Congrats to Devon and Mazel Tov to you on the several hours/week you’ll no longer be in the car. Devon’s road test was clearly more challenging than Rachel’s, whose exam did not include the parking near a hydrant component. She’s been driving for 1.5 days and has found (i.e., looked for) every opportunity to use the car, including last night’s request to interrupt her homework to go the the library. Hard to turn that one down, though I did ask if that was an excuse to satisfy a chai latte craving.

  2. Joanne says:

    So did you sit in the back seat while she was taking the test?

  3. Julie Adams says:

    Congratulations to you both – Devon for the license and you for surviving the test! My mom sat behind me in the backseat during mine and repeatedly kicked and poked the seat when she thought I was about to make a mistake….harrowing for both of us!! I’ve got a lot of errands to run – if Devon starts charging I can put her to work 😉

  4. lisa mcgahan says:

    I look forward to your posts – they always make me smile. Congratulations to Devon!! I hope Jordan and Carly are equally excited – they are huge beneficiaries — ice cream runs etc. Nothing has helped sibling rivalry as much in our home, as the older sister getting her license.

    oo Lisa

  5. I'm So Fancy says:

    Jeesh! She should have to take it again in the UK. I re sat my test 23 years to the week from when I was 16 and they nearly didn’t pass me. Although I suppose I’d had 23 years to perfect my bad habits…

  6. Maggie May says:

    Glad to have found your blog! I read the essay you wrote on relaxed parenting and liked it, followed you here.

  7. Double congrats– I wanted you to know that I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award because your blogs are top notch. You can find the rules on my latest post should you choose to accept this very prestigious award 🙂

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