My daughter is learning to drive and I'm experiencing the sensation of whizzing around familiar corners at unfamiliar angles. And I'm trying very hard not to grip the side of the door or jump away from the curb as we get a little close, but as much as one tries not to become one's parents, the traces leak through. A driving instructor I once had, in Tring, to be precise, liked to slam his clipboard down hard on the dashboard as a not too subtle indication that an emergency stop was required. But he also had floor pedals. I love this idea. I love the alarm of it. But Minky drives well. "Keep under 30" I say as the speedometer inches up to 36. "Don't worry about the bugger behind you." (Can you imagine learning to drive with irate, impatient Los Angeles drivers on all sides?). "Your hair is fine." "Both hands on the wheel."
I'm a passenger in my own car, driving in streets I've never seen. It's the real estate pornographer's dream, really. Did you know that Briarcrest, off of Alto Cedro, off of Hazen, nearly connects with the Laurel Canyon streets and has the best view of LA, both east and west as it's on a crest? Did you know that even though it's a private street, there is a lovely round bottom at the end of the cul-de-sac, like an onion bulb, in which to turn? Did you know that there is a whole network of streets in Westwood, behind Century City which are perfect for learning about stop signs? Did you know that if you drive endlessly up and down your friends' streets, they're bound to see you, even if you don't see them? Did you know that it's called an indicator, not a flicker as I'd like to call it? Did you know that your voice begins to change into a modified Joyce Grenfell as you instruct? I find myself saying things like "Cars are very capable of killing people, and we don't want that to happen do we?"
There is nothing you can do. You cannot possibly be a cool parent when teaching your child to drive. It's impossible. You can show up at school, bring mango boba, ask about 10th grade, discover that the new advisor is widely loved and adored, make lunches, ask them to stop texting for just a little while, try to read the smile that comes across the face when that text comes in, sing along to 102.7 (KIIS-FM) even though you've spent your entire life fighting it and forcing the radio dial back to 89.3 KPCC because you can't get enough of Kai Ryssdal saying "This.....is Marketplace" in the style of Ryan Seacrest. You can help gather the basil for the pesto she's making for supper, agree to buy the polenta for the dish she wants to try, find extra packets of silly bands because the kids are trading them now. But you can't avoid turning into your mother.
"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his." -- Oscar Wilde
- By Bumble Ward