It is said that our lives are shaped by whatever drives us. As a teenage girl during the early ‘50’s, I was interested in becoming a driver to shape my life. In our rural community, until we were licensed to drive, our transportation was limited to wherever our bicycles, feet or someone else could take us. To me, a driver’s license was equivalent to getting paroled; it was a ticket to freedom, to unexplored possibilities down the road.
Driver education didn’t yet exist in our school curriculum. It was relegated by default to the parent who had the lesser fear of dying.
When I turned fifteen, I began my campaign -“operation freedom”- designed to get me behind the wheel with whichever parent, willing or not. First, I took the Subtle Approach, to weaken resistance: “Did you hear about Sue’s father? He’s teaching her all the gears. She’s a lot younger than I am.”
Eliciting little response, I employed the Historical Model, a surefire way to gain empathy: “Didn’t you tell me that grandpa taught you to drive when you were only twelve?”
Finally, I resorted to my “when all else fails” tactic – the Crying Siege, a proven ploy since age two: “I’m never going to learn to drive! I’ll be a disgrace, an outcast; I’ll fail the test, because no one was willing to teach me.” The crocodile tears flowed.
Mother didn’t bite. “I only teach cooking and sewing.”
Dad succumbed. “I’ll see about increasing my life insurance.”
The next few days Dad instructed me about the car and its components, carefully explaining and demonstrating how everything worked. After each session, I asked, “Now, can I drive?”
“Driving is not like learning to swim by just jumping in and paddling for your life.” Dad said, as he observed me, salivating to get behind the wheel. “Well, then again. . .”
Finally, dad backed the car to the end of our long, tree-lined driveway and let me
try. After several starts and stops, I was able to keep the car moving for a few feet.
I ran into the house to share my elation with Mom. “I can drive! I can drive!”
Dad was just as excited, “I’m alive! I’m alive!”
Soon, I was driving from the end of the driveway to the garage without killing the motor or scattering stones. Mom even stopped covering her eyes while she watched from the window and Dad stopped gripping the door handle when I shifted gears.
“You’re ready to solo,” he said, kissing me and the car goodbye.
I drove the whole length without a hitch, except for swerving a bit as I waved at Mom. Dad ran up with his hands flying in the air, happy for me – and praising God for deliverance.
I jumped from the car. “Okay! Now, I’m ready to learn to back up.”
“We’ll get to that after you’ve practiced going forward more,” Dad said.
“It can’t be much harder – I know I can do it.”
“Let’s take this one step at a time,” Dad reasoned. “Driving in reverse is trickier, especially learning how to steer the car’s direction. We’ll take time tomorrow and I’ll show you what I mean with your bike. Then, we’ll try the car.”
“But, dad. . .” I protested.
“No ‘buts’, we’re done for now,” he ended the discussion by closing the door to the house behind him.
I didn’t need any bike practice. I didn’t need any more driving forward practice. How hard could it be to shift into reverse and back up?
No longer needing to convince myself, I climbed into the car and started the engine, shifting to reverse and letting out the clutch. Are they going to be surprised!
The car started to lurch a little; I added some gas and I was moving backward, really moving backward – no sweat, when I go by the window, I’ll honk. They’ll be smiling with pride!
Uh-oh. The car wasn’t going the same direction I was steering, or was it? Oh, dear, which way? Before I could decide, the car did, crashing against a pine with a terrible thud! No need to honk, now! Mom and Dad were looking out the window, alright, and they weren’t smiling.
Fortunately, neither the car nor I suffered great damage. My pride smarted most and my weekly allowance was garnisheed for three months to help cover repairs. Thanks to Dad’s patience, I did eventually get my license. Most of all, a valuable lesson was driven home.
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