April 30, 2018

hit the road

I'm curious:  When parents are on the cusp of having to teach their teenagers to drive, do they change the way that they drive around the time that the kids are going to start paying attention to their every wayward move, or do they continue to drive in their standard reckless-but-wreckless fashion and just keep saying, "See what I just did?  Don't ever do that," as the kids begin a running tab of the parents' myriad hypocritical faults?

This is a concern.  I have questions.


I drive eight miles over the speed limit while telling my kid at length that he can't do that; he needs to keep it to five-over at the most, because he's a targeted demographic as a teenage male.  Four-over is even better.  I do not slow down while I'm telling him this.

I point out the double right-turn lane situation plaguing the off-ramp on the way to his dad's house, noting that because they once eliminated the outside left turn lane for about a year, and then put it back, drivers in the right lane will frequently turn right and then immediately zoom over to the left across two lanes to get to the gas station with the consistently lowest price, without even looking to see if someone is there, believing that the left lane traffic at the ramp can only go straight or turn left.  He's seen this happen several times, and I'm teaching him to always assume it's going to take place.  And it does.  I demonstrate how to hang back a little so that there isn't a wreck, and to instead substitute the fully righteous privilege of honking your horn and cursing a blue streak at the driver, by way of educating him or her about the turn lane situation for future purposes.  It's a public service.

I do try to emulate the proper distance between cars on the highway and tell him that it takes almost a full second for the brain to get the signal once it perceives brake lights in front, and about how a car that rear-ends another is always the one ticketed, barring really rare and strange circumstances.  I point out that it's human nature to get competitive behind the wheel, to want to pass, to get angry if someone merges in front.  It's hind brain stuff.  And you have to overcome it rationally, immediately.

I don't do all that well with most things, though.  "Good example" is not in it.  My kid has learned much of the seedier aspects of his vocabulary from being a passenger in my car.

I do have a good side.  I abhor rolling stops and always use my turn signals.  (Much of that vocabulary has been directed at people who don't use them.)  I go slow in parking lots.  I back out of spaces with multiple glances and ample caution.

I can't give him our car when he turns sixteen.  It's red.  State Farm would blast us.

I think about all of the near-misses I had at that age, with a fresh driver's license and no parent sitting in the seat, teaching me.  I got through them somehow.  I've never been in a wreck that was my fault, and somehow people usually just make it work, even if they get angry, even if they have to shake their fists.  I learned.

I'm not going to be able to anticipate and show him examples of the hundreds and hundreds of sticky things he might face, nor am I going to be perfect in handling the ones that we  run into  hit  encounter.

I'm doing some of each, I think, the changing how I drive around him and accepting and pointing out my various faults and why they're faulty and then talking about them a lot to keep him from asking me why I don't just change and stop doing the faulty things.  The answer is, I don't want to so shut the fuck up.

Some day, far into the future, he's going to drive me somewhere.  I can point out all of his terrible habits and remind him of when he did me the same courtesy.  He'll roll his eyes.  Parents.

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