Last week marked another Butler family milestone—our 4th child received his driver’s license. Four down, four to go! No matter how many times I’ve been through this before—all those nail biters when I hand them the keys, take the passenger seat, fasten my seat belt then snap on my helmet, it never ceases to amaze me how the same hairs on my neck stand at complete attention as I take them for their first driving lesson.
I guess the first time was the scariest because I literally had nothing to compare a child’s first time behind the wheel to. She did me proud though by knowing the difference between the gas and brake pedals as well as having the foresight to blow the horn every time we approached a red light just in case the driver in front of us forgot to stop.
Each of them have had minor mishaps here and there such as going around the rotary (or rodeo as my son called it) a few times before understanding how the whole yield and merge thing works, or allowing me to become one with nature as we nearly grazed the guard rail which protected all those lonely pine trees that I nearly flossed my teeth with, and then there’s that one small mishap when “drive” and “reverse” got mixed up and the garage door almost met its fate—but other than that I’m pretty impressed with how I’ve handled each new driver in our family.
Once we survive, I mean navigate the 6-month driver’s permit period, I have to gear up for the coveted road test with each of them. That experience is a story for another time, but thanks to a dear, childhood friend of mine, I learned to actually enjoy this moment in parenting time. I probably shouldn’t admit this in public, but what the heck, we’re all friends here. This particular friend not only happens to be someone I used to share my sticker-laden Barbie camper with years ago, she also works for the DMV.
I know, I know—DMV employees usually get a bad rap, and I’m certainly guilty as well. Just ask the nice lady in Middletown how I responded to her request for a check that didn’t have yogurt smudges on it. After waiting for 84 minutes with my then 4-year old in tow she’s lucky I didn’t let him do finger painting with his yogurt just to keep him occupied since there were only 2 COUNTERS open that day, but this here friend doesn’t work behind the counters, she conducts the road tests, and loves it!
Her career with the DMV wasn’t something she planned. She is a mechanic by trade—a female mechanic, a profession she chose because she didn’t like how intimidated her single mother always felt when she had to take their family car in for service. Soon after she learned the fine art of tune ups and oil changes, she unexpectedly fell in love with engine and transmission repairs. (I should’ve seen this coming back when she took such good care of our Barbie camper!) For ten years she worked happily in a small, family-owned garage until a back injury forced her to look for a new job.
She’s been testing drivers for 15 years now and aside from suffering a few wrong turns and a couple of minor cases of whiplash, she thinks it’s a privilege to test students who are on a quest of getting a license. Not only that, this job affords her the best stories anyone could ask for—you just wouldn’t believe what she sees in the backseats of some cars!
One of her favorite backseat finds was the cage of carrier pigeons. Originally, they had been hidden in the trunk but were discovered when the young man taking his test asked if he could pull over and put them in the backseat—for fear his pets might suffocate. Though the 3 foot replica of the Empire State Building made completely from Rice a Roni was a close second. But my favorite was about the Plymouth Duster that was a shrine on wheels to Sylvester Stallone. This car had it all including Rocky Balboa seat covers, floor mats, and even posters stapled to the ceilings (makes you feel pretty good about what’s lurking in your backseat now doesn’t it?), and this doesn’t even include what she’s found in some of the pick-up trucks her students have driven. Yes indeed, her work stories are legendary if you ask me.
Now that four of my eight kids have their licenses I asked my friend what her best advice is to students and parents going through the process. Without hesitation she replied “Always check your blind spot and not just the one in your car!”
“Drivers get careless relying only on their mirrors to change lanes and often don’t take the time to stop and look carefully over their shoulders for unseen cars,” she said in frustration. “Well, life’s like that too. We all have blind spots in our life, she went on, and if you move too quickly without taking the time to view any obstacles that might be holding you back, that’s when you risk steering off course and having an unexpected collision.”
Wow! Now that’s something to think about.
I’ll definitely pass her great advice along to all my children as well as keep it in mind for myself, but first, I feel the urgent need to go clean the backseat of my car!
Copyright 2013 Cheryl Butler