A hundred years ago I taught my daughter how to drive a car. It was one of the most joyous and scariest things that I have ever done in my life.
I should preface this by saying that on the Father’s Day immediately pre-ceding our driving lessons my daughter gave me a truly wondrous Father’s Day present. She gave me a CD by Alanis Morissette.
Way, way back then she was a rabid Alanis Morissette fan. I may not have been quite so rabid but I was also a fan. I was actually quite thrilled with her present.
For months leading up to it — perhaps even years — my daughter had been hounding me to teach her how to drive a car. To her, it was the most important aspect of growing up. Heck, she wanted to be able to drive a car since before she entered elementary school. There was absolutely nothing she wanted more.
And then she turned sixteen years old and acquired a driving permit. Not a single conversation happened between myself and my daughter without an urgent plea for me to teach her how to drive so that she could get her license.
I looked at my wife. She rolled her eyes and looked fiercely at me as if to say, “Don’t look at me. There’s no way in hell I’m gonna teach her to drive. That’s a father thing. It’s your job!”
So the day finally came when I went into the living room where my delightful daughter was watching TV from the couch.
I said rather softly, “Hey girl, it’s time for your first driving lesson. Let’s go.”
I have never in my life seen a human being get up from a couch faster than my daughter did at that moment.
With my daughter fidgeting excitedly in the passenger seat, I drove my little sexy Subaru wagon out to the parking lot of the old abandoned Wal-Mart. If I was going to begin driving lessons it was surely to be in a place where there were no other cars and nothing that could be crashed into.
When we got there I turned off the car and got out. I walked around to the passenger seat as my daughter got out and walked around to the driver’s side of the car. I got in and she got in and then I handed her the car keys.
It was one of the most profound rites of passage I have ever experienced.
I barely had my seatbelt fastened when she started my car. I quickly held out my hands, “Hold on! We’ve got to go over a few things first.”
Her first question was, “Can I turn on the radio?”
“No!” (I tried not to scream.)
I went through all the rigamarole of setting all the mirrors and seat positions and whatnot. I told her about the gas pedal and brake pedal and the power steering and the importance of observing everything in all directions. I probably explained a lot of other things. I really don’t remember all of it.
We had a few driving lessons in that old abandoned Wal-Mart parking lot and my daughter was doing very well. She was a natural.
We eventually worked our way to driving on country roads with almost no traffic. We then evolved to driving on roads with traffic. And then we worked our way to driving on the four-lane highway. My daughter continued to amaze me with what seemed like a natural ability to her.
And then came our final driving lesson. It was just one week before she took her test with the DMV in order to get her driver’s license. She had just started my car and before putting the car into gear she reached over to the radio then looked at me and asked for the umpteenth time, “Can we listen to the radio?”
I emphatically said, “No!” I then smiled and pulled out from my jacket the Alanis Morissette CD that she had given me for Father’s Day. I opened the case, pulled out the CD and then handed it to her.
As she looked at it her face seemed to explode with excitement. She took the CD from my hands and yelled out with all her might, “Fuck yeah!”
And that is when I finally rolled my eyes.
I was a passenger in my own car for almost an hour as she drove me all over the county with Alanis Morissette blaring on the car stereo. I will remember it as long as I live.
A few days later I drove her to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) so that she could take her test and get her driver’s license. She passed with flying colors.
That evening when her mother came home from work our daughter jumped up and down as she exclaimed to her mother that she had just gotten her driver’s license. Her mother jumped up and down, too, and they hugged each other.
Then our daughter said, “Uh… I just called a couple of my friends and told them I got my driver’s license. I told them I would take them for a drive.”
My wife and I looked at each other with profound dread.
Our daughter started jumping up and down like a little girl, “Please?!”
My wife started jumping up and down, too, and then handed our daughter the keys to her car.
Around sixteen hours after she first got her driver’s license our daughter proceeded to wreck her mother’s car!
Okay, she did not exactly wreck it. She merely managed to scratch the entire right side of my wife’s car on a barbed wire fence.
How the fucking hell do you manage to scrape up the entire side of a car on a barbed wire fence unless you somehow went off the road and drove up against a fucking barbed wire fence?
This is the question I wanted to ask my daughter but I did not. I did not want to know the details. I merely looked at her and hugged her.
And then I said, “You know, I got my driver’s license on my sixteenth birthday just like you. But for me it was almost two years before I totally wrecked my father’s car.”
My daughter looked confused.
I continued, “While you scratched up your mother’s car on the very day you got your driver’s license I almost totaled my father’s car almost two years after I got my driver’s license. You got your first mishap out of the way practically immediately. Do you realize how lucky you are?”
She looked at me in utter confusion.
“No, of course you don’t. But let me tell you that you are lucky. You are gifted. As usual, you learn lessons faster than most people. The only true question is whether or not you truly learned your lesson.”
She seemed to melt, “Yes dad, I did. I truly did!”
I looked at her very sternly (trying to hide the fact that I was happy that she wrecked her mother’s car instead of my beloved Subaru).
To this day, a hundred years later, she has never had a single speeding ticket, parking ticket or wreck. To insurance companies her driving record is considered impeccable.
Nowadays when I am a passenger in her car when she is driving I feel like I am being driven around by an eighty-year-old woman. I feel very (mostly) safe.
The other day I posted an article about the “Sound of War.” It was about the horrific sound of war that one must endure before, during and after the Fourth of July. The endless fireworks makes it sound like one is in the middle of a war-torn battlefield.
Tonight, after work, I came home to the endless explosions of fireworks. I turned on my laptop but the war-like sound of fireworks was not conducive to writing. It was horrible.
So I put on my headphones (which I very rarely do) and I went through the playlist of music on my laptop. Scrolling down through that list I came upon my playlist of music by Alanis Morissette. Some of it was what I had recorded from my Alanis Morissette CD that my daughter had given me so many, many years ago. Some was much more recent stuff.
I turned on that playlist and began listening to Alanis. I guarantee you that it is much more invigorating than listening to endless fireworks. I had not listened to her in a very long time….
It was not long before intense love began bubbling up throughout my entire being. It was not long before I was ready to start crying with joy. It was not long before I remembered teaching my daughter how to drive a car.