One day recently I wrote the letters SU on a post it note and stuck it to the glove compartment door in the car. When DJ climbed into the driver's seat, she looked over and asked me what it stood for..
"It's to remind me to shut up when you're driving," I explained.
I'm really not a good driver's ed teacher. I am impatient with the process. When we're in a hurry, I want her to speed up.
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At the roundabout at the corner of Oberlin and Hillsborough Streets I might chide, "Go! This is your chance. You've got to be aggressive!"
When she's seemingly flying down Clark Avenue, 3.7" from the parallel parked cars on my side of the street, I begin to pray out loud, "Dear Lord God above, for I know we have sinned but please do not punish us this day with death. Please Lord let us make it this beautiful morning that you have created to the St. Mary's school driveway."
I've found that neither approach is effective in changing her driving behavior or helpful in calming my nerves. I actually find that when I keep my mouth mostly shut, she's does fairly well. In fact, seven months into this process, I think she's gaining more confidence on the road, and I'm gaining more confidence in her.
There were some points early on, well let's just say a cable network would have bleeped me.
"Dad! Why do you scream like that?"
"I do the same thing when a cobra lurches toward me! It's just instinct. I can't help it!"
There was the time it had been pouring down rain. Although just sprinkling at this point, there were still huge puddles of water on the sides of the road from the unexpected downpour a few minutes earlier.
I'm not sure why new drivers cling so hard to the curb, but I recall one of the scariest moments of my life was when I was 15 and riding in the back of my driver's education car while my classmate Carolanne Rahal moseyed up Roberson Street in Fayetteville, NC. I leaned in to the third student in the car hopeful to avoid the telephone poles that were dangerously close to my forehead.
On this damp day, I thought DJ was doing pretty good considering the driving conditions. The roads were wet but she was moving cautiously and had even mastered the delayed windshield wiper setting. All was good, until we approached an oncoming puddle nearly the size of Lake Michigan. With cars approaching in the other direction, DJ kept her commitment to a football field's length between her car door and the double yellow line.
I tried to explain that the white concrete curbing that meets the black asphalt was not a ten inch tire lane and in fact was not really meant for cars at all. She didn't listen, she didn't stop and she didn't even slow down.
As we powered through the puddle, I noticed two joggers headed our way on the sidewalk. We all, well all but DJ, saw what was coming. As the wall of water, more than five feet tall, rose up toward the runners, they crouched to cover their heads from the impending tsunami. I think crouching just made it worse. They were doused. Michelle and Stephanie were in awe. I was embarrassed, working to wave my hands as a sign of apology.
And DJ? Although slightly remorseful, she got so tickled I thought she was going to pee her pants.
If her driving is any indication, she should have no trouble parallel parking. She is very, very familiar with the curbs.