Okay, so I took my adorable six-week old infant with huge, googly eyes and shaggy brown hair, strapped a pair of goggles over her face, slapped a cocky newspaper boy cap on her head, and lifted her, car seat and all, into the front seat. I strapped her in behind the steering wheel, stuck the key in the ignition, slammed the car door and waved goodbye.
At least, that’s what it seemed like.
This week I took my daughter to get her Learner’s Permit.
Except that she is actually 17 years old, has a much better haircut, and would not be caught dead in a pair of “loser” goggles. For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about (and don’t feel bad; most of the time, my husband doesn’t either), this week I took my daughter to get her Learner’s Permit. This means she can now legally learn how to drive. This means I have taken leave of all of my senses. This also means the roads are no longer safe for the rest of us.
It all starts when you child turns 14. On that very day, she begins her campaign.
“Ma … Just out of curiosity, I mean, not anything to do with now, of course, but, theoretically, when would you let me get my permit?”
Your pulse races and you sit down to prevent yourself from fainting and possibly marring your newly washed floor with blood stains. “Does the word ‘never’ mean anything to you?” is what you want to say.
Then you remember that parenting class you took. The one in which the lady with all the degrees but no actual parenting experience advised the audience to present their kids with a “can-do” attitude to instill confidence in their youngsters.
Eh! What does she know?
Your actual reply: “We’ll see.”
Now, I don’t know what it’s like in your family, but in my house, the kids recognize those words to mean “Not now, not ever”. Your child, however, does not balk. She knows that she has 730 good days to work on you - to nag, cajole, and threaten.
But it does no good. Your daughter employs every sound argument known to teenagers, namely:
1. Everyone else’s mother lets them
2. It’s not fair
3. You never let me do anything
4. I’m old enough
5. If you don’t let me, I may have to run away.
It is at the point that she observes you perusing the walls of her boudoir wondering how best to convert the space into an office or sewing room, that the child realizes she will need to do better than that.
Finally, she hits the jackpot:
“But Ma, I CAN DRIVE CARPOOL FOR YOU!”
“But Ma, I CAN DRIVE CARPOOL FOR YOU!”
She’s got you. She sees that your attention is riveted, and takes advantage of this moment of weakness. “I can run out and get you celery from Pathmark an hour before Shabbat! I can pick the girls up from dance practice at 11:30 at night!” And the piece de resistance: “I can drive the cleaning lady home!”
You envision yourself stretched out on the couch with your favorite chenille throw flung over your feet as you sip hot cocoa and read, while your mature, reliable daughter attends to all of those annoying errands. And in this moment of sheer insanity, you agree.
Now, the next morning you realize the folly of your ways and try to back out, but when it comes to OTHER PEOPLE, teenagers have a keen sense of justice and make you feel sure that if you renege on your agreement, you will subsequently have to spend thousands of dollars on family therapy to right this terrible wrong.
And so it happens that you find yourself driving to the Department of Motor Vehicles, conveniently situated 35 minutes from home in a place that even Mapquest refuses to recognize.
Now, our local DMV has been redesigned in an obvious attempt to soothe patrons’ frazzled nerves. Soft pastels were chosen to quiet distress, and potted plants dot the waiting area in order to provide plenty of oxygen for the pacing citizens. Finally, a soft, dulcet voice projects the number of the person who has the next turn to be assisted.
All of this is lovely, until it is your turn to be harangued by the helpful individual at the information desk. Now, I’m not sure what other people’s take on the term “Information” is, but to me it means that you can access … information, there. ‘Silly me. In reality, it is the place where you get to be chewed out by an overworked employee who would just as soon see you drop to the floor and be carried out on a stretcher than help you. He or she will demand the sixteen papers you were supposed to have filled out while you were waiting on line. [How were we supposed to know that? I’m sorry? Psychic Day today? ]
So, the woman shoves a sheaf of papers at you, growling and pointing and demanding signatures, credit cards and social security numbers. It briefly crosses your mind that you may have just signed over your home, your automobile, and your life savings to a total stranger. But hey, as long as the kid gets her permit. That’s the main thing.
You are resolved not to allow her attitude to affect you. Gratefully, in your most obsequious voice, you thank her, all the time pitying her for her complete lack of personality and an obvious void of any social connection to human beings, due to her horrible demeanor.
Anyway. ‘Long story short. We had a copy of one of the documents we needed, not the original. Did anyone, anywhere tell us that we need THE ORIGINAL, before we drove out to this forsaken area on my daughter’s only day off. Oh, but I forgot. Psychic Day. Yeh.
Two hours and 57 miles later, we were back. My lovely though scheming daughter disappeared into the exam room with a smile on her face and my credit card in her hand (a dangerous combination). When she emerged and announced that she had passed (tough luck), we were handed a number and just as soon as I settled down to write this article … it was our turn. Yep.
This time, we were actually directed to a most lovely, warm, smiling, friendly individual who did his best to help us. Too bad he only spoke Bangladeshi. Actually, it might have been English, but his accent was so significant that I couldn’t make out what he was saying.
We left 72 dollars lighter with some slips of paper, and I am pretty sure the man said that my infant girl could now legally drive in the company of a responsible adult. Either that, or he was thanking me for donating my home, automobile, and life savings to the DMV.
I guess only time will tell.
Excerpted, with permission, from “Adventures in the Produce Aisle, and Other ‘Perelous’ Tales”, by Perel Grossman (Israel Book Shop Publications, 2009). To purchase online, click here. To order directly from author, email firstname.lastname@example.org