29 May 2005
A friend's oldest son is learning to drive.
"Taking him out is the scariest thing I've ever done, I think," she wrote to our discussion group.
"One tip," another woman in the group answered, helpfully. "When he makes that right (hopefully) turn at 30 MPH and you yell 'STOP!' and he does and everything in the van rushes into the floor of the front seat -- the proper thing to do, after you catch your breath, is to say, as calmly as possible, 'Now, tell me everything that was wrong with that.' Jumping out of the car and running back to the house is not acceptable. I speak from experience,"
"I really wanted to jump out of the car and run back to the house last Saturday. I figure I could lose a lot of weight doing this, " the mother joked.
Ever supportive, I told her that there was a time when I could drive around town and point out all the spots where our kids had accidents when learning to drive. There was the street where Ned caused a 3-car accident when his brakes failed. There is the stop sign that was installed on top of a center island after Paul knocked it over when it was placed on the street itself.
There was the lawn Tom drove across, and the ditch David rolled his car into. Jeri's memorable accident was driving into the back of her date's car when she returned home from a session with her Dad.
I remember vividly my first accident. I had my license all of 3 or 4 hours when I became a hit and run driver.
My father was out of town. On the train to Los Angeles, which he did every few days (he was a railway mail clerk, working the mail in the mail car from San Francisco to Los Angeles). I had gone home from school and apparently had brought something home with me that the nuns needed. They called to ask if I could bring it back.
I begged my mother to let me take the car. I was eager to get out on my own as a licensed driver, and, in truth, to show off for the nuns.
I remember the thrill of being behind the wheel without another adult in the car. When I came up near the school, there were three nuns standing outside waiting for me. Unfortunately, I was looking at them, and not at the parked cars and ran smack dab into the rear end of one of the cars.
We all poo-poo'ed it, and I drove home, shaking. I don't know what sort of damage I did to the car I hit, but there was a clear dent/scratch on my parents car, which I never admitted to my father I had caused, though he surely knew I had.
My second accident was a bit more difficult to ignore. Again, it happened at school. A visual helps:
Thus school building no longer exists, but when it did, it was surrounded by this low metal fence which was set inside a concrete base. (The car in this photo, by the way, belonged to the nuns and is parked right where the car I ran into had been parked that fateful night).
The school was on a street which was, at that time, a narrow, 2-lane road and the entrance to the school yard was a driveway which was just a little to the left of this photo. Directly opposite the driveway was an alley, which ran from the Franklin St., the next street down, on up to Gough St, where the school was located.
When the nuns drove their car back to school, they would always circle around the block to Franklin St., come up the alley, and make a straight shot into the schoolyard. I never could figure out why they didn't just turn right from the street into the yard, so on this particular day, I was supposed to drive into the yard and that's what I did. Made a right turn from Gough St. into the yard.
That's when I found out why the nuns approached the yard from the alley instead of from the street.
The turn was too sharp and the driveway too narrow to make a right turn. As I turned, I heard the sickening sound of crumpled metal. My car door was impaled on the concrete base of the fence. I tried to back up to get off the fence, but I was so firmly impaled that what I ended up doing was gouging huge gashes in both doors.
No way I could feign innocence on this one. I had to call home and get my father to come and un-impale me from the fence. I was terrified to tell him what I had done, since his wrath was legendary, but to my great surprise, I have no memory of his being furious with me. I guess he had his share of accidents in his early driving days and realized how totally demoralized I was by the accident and how profoundly sorry I was.
I haven't really had any serious accidents since then. Definitely not on that scale. I backed into a car once, scratching both fenders, but I can't really remember any other incident.
So I smile when I think of my friend teaching her son to drive, and I think of all the fun adventures she has ahead of her when he learns to drive, and then her next son, and then her daughter.... It's a wonder parents ever make it through their children's adolescence at all.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is the first picture I ever posted of Sheila,