Mom failed the driver’s license test three times before finally passing. The DMV probably just gave up from exasperation. Or pity. Either way, theirs was a decision clearly against the public interest.
She was the worst driver I’d ever seen. Couldn’t stick to a lane, never drove the posted speed limit, and maintained the horrendous habit of talking with and looking at passengers while driving. More hazardous still, she lacked what could charitably be called “driver’s situational awareness.” Other vehicles, pedestrians, the occasional horse, would just suddenly appear as if out of thin air. “I just didn’t see them,” Mom would recall after accidents.
But all her failings came in mighty handy when it was my time to take the wheel. I’ll explain.
Dad started my on-pavement training. He drove our 1967 Dodge Dart to a large and empty church parking lot, then allowed me to get behind the wheel for the first time and get a feel for the basics. It was there that my initiation began, by starting the engine, shifting into drive, softly pressing down on the gas pedal and just as softly engaging the brake. All these individual tasks were going well, so Dad felt confident enough to let me “take ‘er home.”
Shaking with nerves and exhilaration, I maneuvered the Dart into traffic and drove about a mile to our house. So far, so good. But as I turned the car into our driveway a bit too quickly, Dad started shouting, “Break, BREAK, BRRREEEEAAAAKKK!”
My foot, planted firmly on the gas pedal, followed Dad’s instructions to the letter. The car sped up, crashed and BROKE the center carport support beam.
“Well, you said ‘break’,” I grimaced and let out an embarrassed giggle. Dad was not amused.
After the “break” incident, we decided that Mom’s patient tutelage would be best. Afterall, she’d be calmly oblivious to any impending disaster.