My 13-year-old triplets are fond of reminding me that in about three years they will be driving. At times like these, I think perhaps electronic defibrillators should be standard issue with children – especially multiples.
My daughters started doing this to me about five years ago. I remember the first time very clearly because I had the hiccups. All of the usual remedies had failed – holding my breath, drinking water, etc. My youngest (we have four daughters in total) tried to help by yelling “BOO!” in my face, and then wondered why I was neither startled nor cured. Finally, one of the triplets smiled sweetly and said, “Daddy, guess what - I’m going to have my driver’s license in 8 years.” Hiccups gone – instantly!
Three drivers licenses in one day? How does one deal with that? Living in The Garden of Estrogen - one male, five females - is challenging enough (www.donstaffin.com). Now I have to worry about The Garden going mobile.
Maybe I should do what my father did when my sister turned 17, and plan strategic business trips with the family car for about 6 months straight. “Sorry, Linda, you just can’t take the test next Wednesday. I’m going to be in Schenectady. Is that really the only available date for the next 9 weeks? Maybe we can schedule something next year.” My dad was brilliant.
I understand that most parents handle the driving dilemma by trying to teach their kids the basics - forward, reverse, parallel parking and the fact that the yellow light means “proceed with caution” and not “go very fast.” Frankly, I think this emphasis on parallel parking is misplaced. Who cares if the kid can parallel park? All of the parking spaces at the mall (the destination of choice for teenagers) are head on, and all cars these days are equipped with 5 mph bumpers. Now they even come with rear-facing cameras.
I am far more concerned with how these aspiring drivers react to road situations at 25 mph moving forward than at 1 mph in reverse. If I were in charge of devising a truly relevant driving test for today’s 24/7 drive-through world, here is what I would require:
- Drive from home to school while 10 minutes late. Credit for not speeding.
- Successfully ignore ringing cell phone on passenger seat while driving (and no one allowed to get a blue tooth until age 25).
- Send and receive at least three text messages during a single red light.
- Change ring tones while waiting in line at the McDonald’s pick-up window. Then…
- Drive while consuming a Big Mac, fries, and Coca Cola, without hitting anything and without spilling the Coke down the emergency brake handle. Meanwhile, execute 3 lane changes with proper turn signals.
- Apply eye shadow while driving (mostly for the girls)
- Change earrings while driving (no longer just for the girls).
- Observe another driver making an obscene gesture. Do not respond.
- And for the final challenge, as the would-be driver travels at 25 mph, have three mechanical squirrels scamper into the street. Must not hit any parked cars or pedestrians trying to avoid the squirrels.
That’s what I call a driving test!
I still have three years to figure out how to expand my driveway to handle three more cars. Anyone seen that defibrillator?
About Don Staffin
Since 2004, Don Staffin has been writing a monthly newsletter, which he recently turned into a book called Postcards from the Garden of Estrogen (www.donstaffin.com). Don coaches youth soccer and basketball, and serves as the chairman of the Recreation Board of Bridgewater Township in New Jersey.