Driving Lesson From Hell, With A Licensed Driver
For me, learning to drive was not an easy experience. I was afraid of the car, my dad yelled, and my mom panicked frequently. So when my friend’s daughter, Amy, said her mom made her nervous and asked me if I would go driving with her I was sympathetic.
Despite never having taught anyone to drive before, I told Amy I was free on Saturday and we could go then. I knew she’d passed her Driver’s Ed class and had her learner’s permit so I figured it was just a matter of getting practice. No problem.
Check Your Sanity at the Door
I drove to Amy’s house and moved over to the passenger side of the car. Amy slid behind the wheel, buckled her seatbelt, and noticed that her knees were touching the steering wheel (I’m short, she’s tall, so what). With a quick pull of the lever her seat shifted backwards.
The fact that it took her five minutes to get the seat adjusted should have made me reconsider the whole endeavor; after all, the seat is easy to control. But I was determined to be the cool adult friend and teach her to drive without losing my patience. I smiled and told her to relax; driving was just a matter of practice.
I reminded Amy to adjust the mirrors. She slid her foot carefully off the brake and hit the gas, then shot backward into the neighbor’s trashcan. I took a deep breath and calmly told her to be more gentle with the accelerator, slow and easy is best.
Weaving Like a Drunk Dragon
We lurched down the road with the jerky half acceleration that only a new driver seems able to achieve. I gently pointed out the stop sign Amy had just passed without noticing and reminded her to keep her eyes open for the neighbor kids out playing. I really did not want her to scrape my fender, or even worse, hit a child. Yikes!
Amy took a right turn leaving almost enough room to crack a walnut between my car and the truck traveling the opposite way. My grip on the door handle tightened as I listened for the metal crunching. I hoped Amy didn’t notice. I was the cool grown up and I didn’t want her to feel my anxiety.
There was slightly less lurching as Amy got used to the accelerator, but she was having some trouble figuring out which side of the road was hers. I explained how to divide the road with her eyes when there wasn’t a centerline, wondering if four blocks was enough practice for one day. Then we discussed moving around the cars parked on the side of the road. Calm, cool adult.
Where’s My Brake?
My knuckles were white around the handle as we pulled out onto a multilane road. The strips of paint helped Amy with her aim, though. She almost kept to her own lane as the lurching began again. The driver in the other lane gave me a sympathetic nod as he shot past us looking for a safer stretch of road.
A scream filled the car and I franticly looked out the window for a crushed pedestrian as Amy reached for her phone. I took it quickly from her hand and smiled through teeth while I reminded her that answering the phone while driving was a good way to kill herself or someone else. Amy gave me the “you’re so uncool” eye roll as I turned her phone off and tucked it into my own pocket.
My lips pressed together to keep my lecture on attitude from leaking out. After all I was the cool adult who remembered being a teenager and ignoring all those lectures. Instead I asked her about her unusual ring tone, which turned out to be from her favorite slasher flick. The passionate way she described the movie’s decapitation scene was not what I wanted to hear from some one driving my car.
Sliding to Home
There was a slight hint of my mother’s voice ringing through my head and I was loosing my composure as I told Amy to head back. I was beginning to suspect the Driver’s Ed teacher had let Amy pass the class just so he wouldn’t have to get behind the wheel with her again. It was time to get to safety.
My sigh of relief as we approached entered her neighborhood disappeared into a squeak. Amy hit the button on the garage door opener she had dropped into the cup holder and took a sharp turn into the wrong driveway. She had barely slowed when she hit the garage door.
Her only defense was that all garage doors in Utah look alike and that she would’ve stopped in time if the door had opened. That’s where I lost every pretense of being the adult that never flipped out. Amy’s eyes grew wide in shock as the “understanding adult” in her life yelled at her for the first time ever.
Amy hasn’t driven my car since then, although she did get her license. I haven’t given another driving lesson to anyone. I don’t plan to try it again, either.
By Heidi Grover
Heidi Grover no longer gives driving lessons to her friends’ kids. She still has years to go before facing teaching her own kids to drive. She also writes about home improvement.