Since I have redirect the purpose of this blog to educating my granddaughter, I feel it necessary to talk of life, of experiences, of good and evil, and really anything else that crosses my mind. Many of the stories I will share deal with her Mom, my wife and I’s daughter. Today’s post will be how I taught her to drive, because at some point, my granddaughter will look to her parents for those very same lessons. The thought of that just tickles me to death.
My daughter got her driver’s license in the state of Virginia. It was something both my wife and I wanted her to have, and we wanted her to have her own car, and we wanted her to ferry her own butt around. It is not something we entered into lightly, we knew there would be issues, and costs, and additional expenses. But we figured it would be easier for all concerned if our daughter could drive.
In Virginia you could get your learners permit 6 months prior to your sixteenth birthday. This time was to be spent being prepared to drive. I was drafted, enlisted, browbeat into being the one to teach our daughter to drive. She was going to inherit my car, it was only right that I teach her. At the time these lessons began, I had a 1987 Chevy Cavalier Hatchback, with a 5 speed manual transmission.
It would be helpful to the reader if they knew a little about my daughter in 1994, she was and still is a very smart person. Back then she was a jock, she played field hockey and Lacrosse, and she was damn good at both. This is said to preface the fact, that she could think, and that she had great eye, hand, foot coordination. Then you add the fact that she was a great student, you would think she had all the necessary tools to learn how to drive, well you would be WRONG. Let me also point out, that maybe just maybe I wasn’t the best teacher. But I really don’t believe that, I was GREAT (just like Tony the Tiger).
The single biggest issue in teaching her to drive, was the transmission. To this day, I am surprised she didn’t completely destroy the transmission in that car. Between popping the clutch, to forgetting to push the clutch in when shifting gears, to breaking without pushing in the clutch, to revving the engine to 10,000 rpm’s trying to engage 1st gear, that 5 speed transmission gave her hell. And hell won LOL LOL. But also in time she did win, and she did learn how to use the clutch without destroying it. Later when she had the opportunity to purchase her 1st car she chose a car with manual transmission. Told you she was smart.
The memories of actually teaching her are sketchy, I was in constant fear, so those memories are repressed. We lived in a hilly neighborhood in Northern Virginia. Our driveway was downhill with a slant from left to right as you looked at it from the garage. Initially I wouldn’t let her drive in the neighborhood, there were too many cars parked on the street, and there were a couple of hills that having to use a clutch was a bit much for a brand new driver. But the initial instructions were given just sitting in the car, finding and using the pedals, shifting gears, getting a feel for the operation. Might as well just had her back out of the garage and race up the hill to that 1st stop sign for all the good those instructions did. Like any teenager she was in a hurry to drive, she wanted to get out on the road.
Our 1st few driving lessons where nerve wracking, both hers and mine. I was constantly giving her easy to understand instructions; “easy on the gas,” “go faster,” “JESUS slow down,” “don’t forget your turn signal,” “damn it!!! shift,” “watch the curb,” “use the clutch,” “watch that car, watch this car, watch the light,” the list of instructions were endless, and they needed to be repeated constantly! Sometimes I actually gave the instructions in a calm collective voice, dripping with love and tenderness. Other times I was a touch more forceful, almost to the point of blowing a gasket. She was never going to learn! Sometimes at the end of a lesson we both were in tears.
But time is the great equalizer, she was learning, she did learn. First she slowly mastered starting the car without it jumping. Once she mastered starting the car some of the other lessons started to click. Engaging the clutch and putting the car in gear was a major victory. Letting the clutch out so the car didn’t hop at a stop sign or light was another major victory. Learning to let the clutch out at a hilly stop sign or light was a monumental achievement. Shifting gears once she was away from a stop became easier and easier, though she did forget to engage the clutch when breaking, so we would have reverse hop, throwing me against the windshield, by the way, this is when I truly learned the importance of using the seat belt. Had I had a helmet I would have worn that too. My daughter like most young drivers really wanted to learn, she really wanted the independence her license would give her, and she knew already that we were going to give her the Cavalier for her 16th birthday. Her heart and determination were invested in learning to drive.
In only a few gut wrenching experiences, she was doing very well at the basics. At this point I would almost let her back the car out of the garage but not on a regular basis. She had learned and adapted to pulling up to a stop sign, engaging the clutch, and pressing the brake pedal. She was still having issues watching traffic, using her turn signals, and braking. But she was progressing. These lessons were taking place during the winter months in Northern Virginia, a place many of you know, and also realize it does snow in the winter there. Weeks after the initial lessons, my daughter was doing pretty fair LOL, and I had many many more gray hairs. The snow came, 4 or 5 inches, enough to really mess everyone up. We (I) were lucky, it snowed on a Friday, by Sunday the roads and more importantly the parking lots had been all plowed. It was time to teach my daughter how to drive on slippery roads. Well thank God we all live in Florida now. Anyway, on that 1st Sunday morning, we went over to the Springfield Mall parking lot. I drove over explaining what I was doing, and how I was doing it. My daughter asked several good questions, and seemed to imply that this was nothing, no big deal. When we got to the parking lot, it had been freshly plowed, but there was still the shine of ice covering the entire lot. Yes there were dry spots, but mostly that thin coating, just enough to make it real slick. My daughter and I when and played on the ice. It was a hair-raising experience for both of us. My daughter admitted it was a lot more difficult than she ever imagined, and that watching me drive on snow and ice had given her a false sense of ease, that when she drove quickly evaporated. Over the next few weeks we had a couple more opportunities to drive in and on the snow and ice. She got better, my heart rate slowed down, and I didn’t need as many post lesson drinks.
While going thru the teaching phase, we had contacted our auto insurance company to get an understanding of what our rates were going to JUMP to when our 16-year-old daughter began driving. We were lucky in that our daughter was a daughter and not a son and we were also lucky that our daughter was an extremely good student. We weren’t lucky in that she was 16! But we found out that if she went to a certified driving school before getting her license, that training would have a very positive effect on our rates. At this time we were only a month or so away from the big day, and I was more than happy to turn the rest of the project over to the professionals (even for a slight phenomenal fee). She was one of 3 student drivers per session, and she got maybe 15 minutes of driving time per lesson. This was not satisfactory, and because I was unhappy I negotiated with the vendor, and got our money back. We found another vendor who completed the task, and after 3 or so weeks (at 3 lessons per week) of formal driver training she was considered passed, and got the certificate. To this day I still believe we got taken LOL LOL LOL. But my daughter had a certificate filed with DMV.
On the big day, my wife daughter and I all piled into my wife’s car. We wanted her to take her driver’s test in a car that had an automatic transmission. My wife and I stood on the sidelines as our daughter went thru the process. She had her eyes examined (I should have had my head examined). She took the written test, and passed, and was immediately awarded with her driver’s license. I was flabbergasted, how could DMV forget the driver’s test, how could they just give her a license? I raced up to the DMV manager and demanded an explanation. He stated that because she had taken driving lessons from a DMV certified trainer she was not required to actually demonstrate to DMV that she was capable of driving. The certificate she had (also a part of the DMV records) was all the proof the State of Virginia needed before they would issue a license. Still shocked and amazed I stated that she still didn’t know how to drive, and that DMV should test her. The manager stated that if I felt that she wasn’t qualified to drive, that as a parent I needed step up, and refuse to allow her to take the test, that it was my responsibility to say no, and to get her adequate training. He went on to say that our daughter had met the obligations and according to the state she was qualified to have her license.
15 minutes later my wife daughter and I were headed home, my lovely daughter had her freshly minted driver’s license in her hot little hands, and she was ready to go. And go she did, and still does. I want to say she got her license over a QUARTER of a CENTURY ago, but it really hasn’t been nearly that long ago. But I like pulling her chain so I stuck it in this post anyway.
As always your comments are welcome, and should you have questions please feel free to ask, I do reserve the right to not answer. Take care and have a pleasant Day. — Bill