This past week, the theoretical became reality. The driver's permit that my son had been on the verge of for the past several months became his. Not a license, but a permit to learn how to drive. Even though he has been telling his parents for the past couple of years that this whole driving thing was going to be a slam dunk, it turns out that all those picayune details are significant after all. Several trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles to make certain that the proper paperwork had been brought along, and two attempts at taking the written test have finally given the green light to our son's vision of the open road.
But first, he's got to sit next to a grown up who will watch him drive for about sixty hours. For her part, my wife was surprised by how different it felt to be teaching her son to drive compared to simply supervising him as he backed the car down the driveway to park it ten feet away so that it could be washed. All that forgotten high school Driver's Ed came rushing back at her. The stated speed limit was fifteen miles an hour, not twenty. Every stop was a near catastrophe, as the brakes are still a fresh new thing to our young Mario Andretti. Each start was a lurch as Enzo Ferrari familiarized himself with the power of acceleration. When it was over, it was difficult to tell who was more frazzled, mother or son.
I know it will be my turn soon enough. My first thought was of the emergency brake. This was one of my father's favorite tools when he taught me to drive. If he didn't like how things were going, he would reach between the seats and pull up hard on that lever, letting me know that I had missed something. It was punctuation. The emergency brake for our Prius is on under the left foot of the driver, about as far away from the passenger's side as possible. I know that I will have to come up with a different strategy if I am gong to be successful in getting my son and I out of this in one piece.
"Trust" comes to mind. My son learned to crawl, walk, run, bike and ride a bus without me pulling the emergency brake. He made it through his sophomore year and into his junior year in high school without me pulling the emergency brake. He has made it through sixteen years in our house without me once having to pull the emergency brake. Not that I didn't have the urge to do just that, but his mother and I haven't. Not literally or metaphorically. We've made it this far on trust. Brakes stop. Trust keeps on going.