“Somebody actually complimented my driving today.  They left a little note…It said, “Parking Fine.” ~ Tommy Cooper

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the elderly and driving.  You hear people say that the elderly should have more stringent testing before receiving/renewing their licenses, and I can see where – in some cases – that might be a good idea.  But last night I was faced with a  situation that made me wonder if we shouldn’t have more stringent testing of our teens before they receive/renew their licenses as well.

Yesterday evening, my 16 year old had bell choir practice at our church.  I was a little anxious about allowing her to take the car on her own because we were under a severe thunderstorm watch.  Neighboring towns were experiencing flash flooding, and even tornado warnings; so I was a bit nervous about sending her out by herself.  What if a tornado dropped in front of her car?  What if we suddenly had a flash flood and she’s out and about and tries to drive through high waters?  What if lightening strikes and telephone poles land in the middle of the road?  Would she know what to do?  I suggested that it would be better if I went with her.

My husband, Troy, told me it was time to “land the helicopter.”

“Seriously, Cath.  You’re being a bit overbearing.  Land the helicopter and give her some breathing space.  She’ll be fine,” he said.

“Yeah!” Amber said.  “We learned all of this in Driver’s Ed.  I’m not stupid.  I know how to drive.  I can handle it.”

And so with no other recourse, I “landed the helicopter” and allowed Amber to take Troy’s car in the midst of an impending storm, just knowing that the evening would end with her calling me and asking, “What should I do…?”

At 9:00 Amber texted me to say that she needed to drop her boyfriend off at home, so she’d be a little bit late.  This was fine and, to some degree, I had a bit more security in the knowledge that Cory would be with her for at least part of the ride home.

At 9:30, the phone rang…it was Amber.  See?  I told you she’d be calling to ask for advice.  Moms know these things.

“Mom?”

“Yeah,” I responded.

“I think I broke the car,” she said with obvious concern and just a smidge of fear in her voice.

“You broke the car?  How’d you do that?  Did you have an accident?”

My mind was beginning to spin.  Was she okay?  Did she have an accident?  Was the car in a ditch?  Was anyone injured??  The possibilities seemed endless.  Poor Amber!  She must be scared to death!  In my mind’s eye, I imagined my husband’s Jeep in a crumpled heap.  Where were my car keys?  I need to get to my baby!

“Ummm…no.  But I can’t get it to work.”

At this point, I’ve gone from full panic mode to relief mixed with no small amount of confusion.  It won’t start?  Why would that cause her to think that she was responsible for “breaking” the car?

“Am…what does that mean?  How did you break the car?” I asked.

“Well, ” she began, “I got to Cory’s house and we sat in the car for a few minutes just talking.  I shut the car off, but I left the air conditioner running.  Then I told Cory I had to leave and he went into the house.  Then I tried to start the car and it won’t start and the key is stuck in the ignition.”

“What do you mean that the key is stuck in the ignition?” I asked.  This just made no sense to me.

“Well, Cory went inside and I tried to start Dad’s car.  It would’t start so I tried to remove the keys and they’re stuck in the ignition.  I can’t get the ignition-thingy to rotate fully to start the car or to remove the keys.  I texted Cory to come help me, but he can’t figure it out either.  So I’m sitting here and I can’t get the car to start and I can’t get the keys out of the ignition, either.  Is Dad gonna be really mad that I broke his car?”

Divine inspiration hit and I intuitively had a good idea what was causing the problem.

“Amber, is the car in Park?”

“Yes!” she said in frustration.

“Double-check.  Make sure the gear shift is in park.”

Dead silence.

“I’ll be home in a minute,” she said shyly and with obvious embarrassment.

Bingo!  Mom saves the day!  Don’t ask me how I knew what the problem was; I’ll never tell!

Yes, folks.  The number one rule of learning to drive is learning how to start the car!