“Always look ahead, son. Driving isn’t just about what’s in front of you – you need to be thinking about where you’re going.” I was trying to use my ‘calm’ voice as I was gripping the passenger door handle with my right hand, just out of his sight. I know learning to drive is hard enough without your anxiety-ridden mother gasping for air in the front seat.
“I know, Mom,” he replied, just a hint of irritation in his voice.
“Where are you going? You need to be over….” my voice trailed off as I knew there was no point.
“The freeway, I guess. Too late to change lanes, so I’ll do the safest thing – isn’t that good driving, Mom?” He has such a way of spinning things – I see politics in his future.
I’m sure had he glanced over at my face he would have seen my bulging eyeballs and sweat beginning to bead off my forehead. My taupe colored fingernails dug into the door handle as he rounded the on-ramp and floored our little red Prius. Our car isn’t known for its horsepower. I squeezed my eyes shut, just for a moment, and took a deep breath.
“See, Mom, it’s fine. This is actually a short cut. I know what I’m doing. It will take us right to World Market.” Again, the spin master at work. The groceries tottered in the back seat as he pulled the car into the slow lane.
“Not here – that’ll take you back on campus! Stay straight!” My voice had entered the upper octave region. I needed to calm down – stress him out and we’re doomed to die going 55 in my hybrid.
Wordlessly, he pulled a little left and went back on course. I remember driving this stretch in my dad’s brown Datsun pickup truck, sixteen years and full of myself. Crap.
“It’s this exit, right?” The car veers before I can mouth the word ‘NO!”
At this point I’m mute. He know’s what he’s doing. He knows it all, actually. I’ll just shut up and see where we get.
He passes the Aggie football field; fortunately, the marching bands stay on the sidewalk while they are warming up. I remain silent as he misses another turn, and goes straight onto campus.
“This is totally a shortcut, Mom. I’m actually saving you time, you know…” his voice rambles on, exuding confidence. We stop in front of a parking gate. He looks left. Right. Forward. I can see he’s confused.
He turns right, whips a u-turn in the parking lot and goes left back onto the road. At this point, feeling nauseous, I break the silence.
“Look ahead!” I’m afraid my command came out rather aggressively. “You need to always look ahead! Driving is more than just making a turn at the last second. You need to think about where you’re going. TURN RIGHT AT THE NEXT SIGNAL!”
He signals, and turns right.
“I totally know where I’m going, Mom. Geeze. I’m just going to go straight and whip a leftie after Rite Aid.”
“Nonononononooooo. Trust me. That won’t work.”
He smiles, looks ahead, and turns left. Maybe there’s hope after all.