I’ll be happy to drive

I’m about to burrow into my grading hidey-hole for a few days, but first want to notch a small milestone on the stick of time.

After yesterday morning’s post I recalled that Older Daughter’s learning permit to drive was set to expire. None of the regional testing facilities had shown any available openings for her to take her driver’s test for the past two weeks, and she’d resigned herself to a lapse of ineligibility. But I thought I’d look again, on the off-chance that someone might have canceled. And sure enough, there was one open slot yesterday morning. We took it, she passed… and she promptly asked me to drive her to a celebratory Indian lunch at Woodlands, then back to school. Driving’s not the liberating thing for her and many of her peers that it was for me.

I recall precisely what I was doing on no more than a handful of the days of my life. The day I turned 16 is one of them: I was down at the DMV in St. Charles MO, applying for my mobility. My freedom.

Older Daughter asserts her freedom not to drive. Well, she’s free to choose. So is her driver. With freedom comes responsibility. Sometimes it’s a chore. Sometimes, if you want to be somewhere, you’ve just got to “carry” (as we say in Tennessee) yourself.  Sometimes you’ve got to carry yourself where you don’t want to be. And eventually, if you’re lucky to live so long, you’ll have to hand over the keys. It was a sad day when Dad knew he’d driven his last mile. The markers dot every stage of a long journey, they’re not all happy.

Older Daughter agrees with Daniel Gilbert (quoted by Tom Vanderbilt in Traffic): “You can’t adapt to commuting, because it’s entirely unpredictable. Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.” Well, I commute. It’s usually not hellish, for me, though I would almost always rather be biking. (Nashville’s making that much easier, by the way, with new rent-a-bike kiosks popping up all over town.) And I still want my Supertrain.

I do feel sorry for those driving in the opposite lanes, to work in the city. I’m also aware, much more than I was at 16, that driving is a serious and fraught undertaking. Vanderbilt again: “Human attention, in the best of circumstances, is a fluid but fragile entity. Beyond a certain threshold, the more that is asked of it, the less well it performs.”

But anyway, Older Daughter’s performance yesterday was excellent. She’s a good and careful driver, her tester didn’t deduct any points. She turned the morning’s unanticipated opportunity into an achievement, a milestone meriting unreserved celebration.

Little girl’s growing up. Before we know it we’ll be receding in her rearview. Meanwhile, I’ll be happy to drive.

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