By Craig Funston
Many years ago, when the Big Dipper was just a little pot, I drove through my first stop sign. That was about a block before I smashed into the curb—not once, but—three times. Not an auspicious way to take my driver test, but the instructor must have seen something beyond my clumsy start. Or maybe it was the $25 bribe under-the-dashboard that sealed the deal. (Okay, just kidding about the bribe.)
Either way, I got my permanent driver’s license that day, and have never looked back since–unless I was making a turn.
That was over 43 years ago—and I have never lost the rush that comes with driving. By the way, that is not the same as rushing when I’m driving. Strangely enough, I have rarely blown a stop sign since, and my parallel parking skills have improved significantly, at least as far as the curbs are concerned: it’s the cars in front and behind that might tell another story.
So I suppose it comes with the territory that I train (which rhymes with “strain”) my own kids—the boy ones, in particular—when it comes to driving. I have enough of them; you’d think I would get use it. Taxi stops (aka California stops), parallel parking (aka paralyzed parking), and highway exercises (aka Indy 501) are all part and parcel of this adolescent rite of passage.
While it doesn’t get easier with age, there is a certain go-with-the-flow attitude that I have developed over the years. It’s either that or they stay on trikes for the rest of their lives. But then again, maybe I’m simply taking more tranquilizers than usual. Ear plugs and dark sunglasses also do the trick.
There’s a certain level of independence that getting a driver’s license brings. And that freedom would be for both parent and teenager.
Here’s an illustration for you: Getting one’s license is the difference between a snake and a lizard. The former crawls and slithers, and gets wherever eventually; whereas the latter scurries and darts, and get wherever a whole lot quicker.
(Maurice, the lizard in my illustration would be akin to some kid getting his license, after having spent sixteen years crawling here and slithering there.)
I have six sons, and have just completed this well-deserved rite of passage with a third driver. That makes three down, three more to go—and I’m referring to drivers, not stop signs.
The advantage of having another driver in the house is incalculable. It’s one thing to live in, say, Medicine Hat or Lethbridge, where walking or busing are viable options. Down here in the Back Thirty, walking is what we do to chase cows, and busing means going to school five days a week.
Beyond that, all destinations are a distance, and distances call for driving–meaning getting the mail, going to that part-time job, even visiting one’s neighbour in the next township.
With a sixteen-year-old driver in the house, now someone else can take the garbage to the dump, er, Waste Transfer Station (also affectionately known as the WTS Store). It also means that when we run out of chocolate bars or Monster drinks, it’s not the old man (that would be me) that has to trundle out to the store.
(I don’t believe the driver in question reads this column regularly, so let me break the news to him personally.)
With the new freedom comes new restrictions, namely, no quick trips to Lethbridge to have coffee at the mall, no taking the truck without asking, and no cruising the coulees when the spirit moves.
Then there’s the matter of insurance. I have little problem with exorbitant rates for the young male species of our race, what with no proven safe driving record. We had to do a little creative economics so the boy wouldn’t have to mortgage his future for the sake of a little drive here or there. After removing a window here and a mirror there, we got the annual rate reduced significantly. I even tried to limit the number of tires, but that fell, er, flat.
Oh well, three more stop signs to go.