The baby child, that is to say the younger one who is not at all a baby anymore received his driver’s permit about a month ago. Unlike with his older sister who we taught to drive “the old fashioned way” by taking her out to parking lots and abandoned warehouse sites when she got her permit, for him we hired a company to provide lessons right from the get-go. This is of course the law but we did not know that with our first child. We thought it was like back in our day when you got your permit and you started to practice and then you took a class in school and voila you were driving. Eventually we did get our daughter the requisite professional lessons but we were a bit behind the curve and she had a good bit of time behind the wheel in safe driving locals before that. Thus it was that after her official lessons she was very comfortable in the car. A little too comfortable some might say, but then some are the parent so we are biased.
The goal when you make a mistake is to learn, and so my husband and I patted ourselves on the back for our good learning when I went online and scheduled the required appointments just as soon as our son had the permit in hand. “We will do this correctly,” we said to ourselves, “this will be a breeze,” we nodded in agreement, “driving with our son will be so much less stressful because he will have professional lessons,” we confidently anticipated. Ha ha ha laughed the universe, we are talking about a fifteen year old boy, remember.
So he had a lesson and it went well. I comfortably let him navigate the car down to the end of our block. This sounds ridiculous but you have to know our block to understand that it is no small feat to get from one end to the other unscathed. He had a second lesson and was feeling great about his driving skills. He drove the other way down the block and also part way up the hill. Things were going swimmingly. And so on Tuesday morning I said, “why don’t you drive to school,” and he said “right on,” or something close to that in more teenagey speak.
Here is a short list of the things I did not think about in advance: his school is far away, we live in the Bay Area where people are extremely aggressive in vehicles (and walking and biking), it was the first day back at work after a holiday, it was right in the middle of the morning commute, my son had driven for a total of three and a half hours. Here is a short list of the problems we encountered on the way: he ran a red light thinking that my instruction to go through the intersection meant no matter what, we had the frustrating experience of being behind the cyclist who would not pull over and the other cars who did not want to be behind us behind the cyclist, we forgot that merge right meant to the right not the left, we encountered the phone focused pedestrian who thinks there are invisible walls around the crosswalk so they can just step into traffic and are magically protected, we were teased by the driver turning right only to stop and jerk forward and then go and then not and then finally abandon the plan altogether. Sitting as the passenger watching all of these dangers on the road I felt deeply how much I hate driving in the area where I live. I visit other places, it isn’t like this everywhere, we don’t make it easy I don’t think.
We were within a block of the school. Here is another thing I forgot: the block where you turn to get to the school has a weird angle and cars parked on both sides encroaching on the lanes making them very narrow, and it is a blind turn, you can’t see the rest of the road and how much room you have until you get around the corner. So he turned and the car in the opposite lane veered a little because of the parked cars, and because I have been driving for nearly thirty years I just slow down when this happens and proceed with caution. But my son had been driving for a total of four hours in his entire life at this point and he panicked. The parked car he hit was pushed into the parked car in front of it. No one was hurt, that’s what matters of course. It was his dad’s car, two months old and it will be getting a new bumper, new headlight, new hood and various bits and pieces that live around the wheel.
When I got home from the body shop, and off the phone with insurance I got online and booked his next appointment with the driving school. Experience after all is the best teacher.