I blame Golf n’ Stuff.
Because when I retrace where my angst over driving began, it always begins there — childhood birthday parties at that putt-putt course with amusement park rides like gas-powered go-carts. It was a huge deal to finally be tall enough to drive one without an adult next to me, but it was a dubious privilege. I hated the smell and the loud motor and those carts were so hard to steer. Every drive started with a lecture from the bored teenage employee about how they weren’t bumper cars, but it was virtually impossible (for me) not to hit other cars or the plastic railing. You practically had to stand to even move the pedals. Once, I accidentally floored it, but it was the gas not the brake as I was pulling in to park and so I smacked the half dozen cars in front and I was mortified.
Before I had my actual driver’s license, I was tasked with driving the truck during hay-baling season when we visited my grandparents’ farm. Gramps thought it was ridiculous that I was almost 15 and had never been behind the wheel. The plan was my cousins would toss bales into the truck bed, hop in and smack the side of the truck so I’d know it was time to move excccceeeept, I peeled out and they all fell off the tailgate.
My actual driving test did not go much better. I had a huge, hand-me-down Ford roughly the size of a submarine. My dad took me out once specifically to parallel park, told me I had the procedure down and I believed him. But when it came time to perform my trick for a non-blood relative, in fact quite possibly the crankiest man to ever administer driving exams, it all fell apart. I lurched forward and then backward 5 inches at a time, trying to maneuver between those orange cones for probably 15 minutes before the instructor called it.
He slid into the passenger side and buckled in.
“I hope you drive better than you can park,” he barked.
And that was it. I lost it. Big, fat tears slipped down my face.
It only got worse. I was so flustered that I forgot to slow down as I drove past a school, which the instructor pointed out. We may have gone up onto only two wheels “Fast and Furious” style* when I took a right turn way too fast. It was a disaster from start to finish.
By the time I pulled back to the starting spot where those stupid orange cones continued to taunt me, I was full-on bawling.
“You can stop crying,” the instructor said, his tone a smidge softer. “You passed.”
It was a miracle.
Life with wheels was amazing. Until I had kids.
The freedom of being a licensed teenager driver is quite different from being an unpaid chauffeur for your children. Those little dudes go everywhere. To school, to horse riding lessons, to soccer practice and basketball practice and doctor’s appointments and orthodontist appointments …
I always said if won the lottery, I wouldn’t hire a maid or a cook, I would get myself a driver.
Of course, I guess there is Uber** now, which I briefly considered the other day as I was facing a mid-week, nighttime, 5-hour round trip to Phoenix for a high school basketball game.
It’s not so bad if you’ve got company, but my husband was on a golf trip with his buddies and since I didn’t want to mortify my youngest child by asking his coach if I could hitch a ride on the bus with the varsity team, I sucked it up and decided to be an adult, which is easier said than done since I don’t quite have the disposition for distance driving. I’m more a sprinter — off to Target and back (less than 3 miles!). The truth is, driving on interstates and freeways
kinda freaks me out — especially if it’s more than 3 miles. Exhibit A: I have written no fewer than three stories about treacherous trips I have made for the love and support of my children. So, I guess that would technically be Exhibits A, B and C***.
Flashbacks of each of those drives popped into my brain as I tried to psych myself up for that boring ass 117-mile trek. As I started to hyperventilate about all that could go wrong, I decided to look at things another way: When do I ever have 5 hours of alone time? I can queue up a bunch of episodes of my favorite podcast! OOH — I could stop and get Fatburger!
Sadly, the attitude adjustment didn’t take. I gripped that steering wheel so tightly that my fingers were cramping only 40 minutes into my journey and the super dark thoughts — darker even than Interstate 10 at 9:45 p.m. — about all that could go wrong on the road stressed my brain enough to knock 2.4 months from my life. I think I got back 1.7 months, though, by swapping my Fatburger dinner for trail mix and a banana from Glendale’s sketchiest Circle K.
But ya know, next time, I am just gonna ride the bus because honestly, I really don’t think I’ve given him enough crazy mom material for college.
*I don’t know if that’s actually true because I’ve seen NONE of those movies.
**UberX price estimate for one-way from mi casa to Apollo High School in Glendale: $172.91.
***If you care…