Driving lessons

“If I’m gonna hit a traffic jam, well it better be a tractor man … ”

— Rodney Atkins

I would like to apologize to all the capable Pittsburgh drivers because I am not one of you. I am a menace when I enter the city limits. There really should be a “rural driver” sign I could affix to my vehicle.

A tractor I am used to. A slow moving corn picker that takes up the whole road I can deal with. A bus that spans a city block and seems to belch out tiny smart cars and pedestrians with a death wish I do not understand.

I don’t do well in multi-lane, fast moving traffic. Throw in a tunnel and I’m done for.

Before

I used to be able to drive. At 18 I drove into the city daily for work. I mastered parking decks and carpool lanes. I even had gridlock!

At home I parallel parked on the street in front of my house for years. Now, if I am called upon to parallel park, I’d rather just circle the block — or go home.

Growing up in a college town, I did pretty well around big buses. Once I figured out that, unlike public school buses, you don’t have to stop entirely for them, I was fine. There was a time I could maneuver around a big bus with one hand, while college kids dodged across the street like a Frogger video game, all without spilling my coffee.

Now, throw me into a metro driving situation and I’m completely confused by the narrow roads, street parking both sides and an oncoming buses. What does that leave me? Sidewalk?

Chicken

Being a new driver himself, Boywonder, seeing me face such a challenge, said indignantly, “but you have the right of way mom!”

Yes son, I do, but no one really “wins” a game of chicken with a city bus.

On this same foray I may have allegedly made a wrong turn down a one-way street. A solid line of cars all facing me was my first clue — just in case the beeping and wild gestures weren’t enough.

I quickly made another right turn (going the right way this time) and all was well. It was a ten-second error and they were all at a red light. City folk are so excitable.

I also swore Boywonder to secrecy, but as it turns out, he can’t be bought. (I want my chocolate shake money back, kid).

Practice run

Despite a not-so-glowing report on “the times mom tried to wreck us in Pittsburgh,” Mr. Wonderful still felt it wise for me to practice towing our fifth wheel camper. I am proud to say I drove it a whole five miles and all involved emerged unscathed.

Never mind that I never went more than 30 miles per hour, and when I hit that speed, I panicked.

I may also have driven over one (imaginary) curb in the parking lot, but all in all Mr. Wonderful said I did “fine.” Not exactly the glowing review one wants, but our home on wheels made it home in one piece. I consider that a successful trip.

Meanwhile, it was slower going on my last trip into Pittsburgh. I couldn’t see what the holdup was. I have to assume there was just a city-wide lowering of the speed limit. I imagine the city fathers got together and said “look, we have it on good authority she’s gone after tonight. Just bear with us and we can all return to normal when the threat has passed.”

Lesson

All this is happening as we are teaching BoyWonder to drive. Technically he has already taken driving school. We paid a very nice woman to drive around with him for hours so that she could slam on the imaginary brakes and chastise our child so we didn’t have to.

He is full of tales of her directions to “speed up” then “slow down.” He was frustrated by what seemed to him conflicting advice. “What does she want from me mom?” he asked.

Well, I don’t know what she wants but I know what I want. I want him to be 3 years old and tooling around the driveway in his little red plastic car. He can parallel park by the porch.

Now, it is our turn to practice with him and I’m reluctant. He’s actually a careful and cautious driver. I just feel like such a hypocrite these days. How am I to tell him how to drive when I’m pretty sure there is an APB out regarding my driving style?

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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