About 21 years ago I helped teach my son to drive. To this day he reminds me how terrified he was during those adventures. A terror, by the way, of which I was blissfully and completely unaware at the time.
There was a goal for me: Exceed minimums. Hey, passing the driver test at the DMV is a noble goal, of course. Staying alive after getting one’s license is, to my mind, even more worthy.
So in addition to rehearsing the gentle crawls through the streets around the DMV — the turf upon which the driver test will torture the lad — I recalled my own youthful thrill of being a new driver.
Almost as soon as I got my license I drove into Boston to take a look around. Have you driven in Boston? Have you heard the stories about Boston drivers? Can you imagine the hubris of a teenager with a brand new license throwing himself into such a cauldron? Oh, sorry, of course you, too, were once a teenager.
Assuming my son would suffer the same near-universal convulsion of teenage stupidity, I attempted to prepare him for it. I directed him to the freeway. I coached him through his first on-ramp experience, then took him off the freeway at the next off-ramp. Then returned to the freeway, then off the freeway. Merge-exit-merge-exit, over and over and over.
The freeway gods even pitched in, offering their own adventure. On our way to the next off-ramp a trailerless tractor — you know, the engine-and-driver part of an 18-wheeler — went completely out of control just ahead of us. It slid sideways, tires smoking, then started sliding around in circles.
I coached my son in pumping the brake, changing lanes to avoid the rig now balanced precariously over guardrails, tires still spinning and smoking. All safe. Well done, son.
In a lesson soon after the freeway drills, we went to San Francisco to learn how to stop, start, and parallel park on the nastiest hills in The City. Part of getting to those hills and back home from those hills is, obviously, navigating city traffic.
San Francisco traffic is a piece of brie compared to Boston. But my son had never seen Boston traffic, so dismissing his concerns with the comparison between the two cities helped not a whit.
Those adventures remain close to the surface of his regard for me, even now. Yes, he laughs as he tells the stories, but it is a vaguely nasty, sardonic laugh. Perhaps I deserve his disdain; I may have been premature in his immersion.
Oh, by the way, he and his lovely wife now have 2 sons. One an infant, a babe in arms; the other is 2 years old. Sons, yes. In 14 years my son will get to revisit my motives from a completely different point of view. And then again, 2 short years later.