Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Some advice for my teenage driver

My daughter just turned fifteen, but for the past six months, the predominant request emanating from her mouth (other than "What's for dinner?") is "Can I drive?"

Our response, naturally, has been a consistent, "No, you don't have your permit yet." Well, now she's about to get one, so let the games begin. I've been mulling over any type of driving advice I could give her, as gleaned from my thirty-one years of operating a motor vehicle. Naturally, she'll have to become physically proficient at driving an automobile, but this list is more about mental preparedness and the utilization of common driving sense, which I'm fairly sure most teenagers don't have a handle on just yet.

Here's what I came up with. Zoe, listen closely.

1) We all know about how dangerous it is to text or talk on a cell phone while driving. What isn't really discussed is eating. Never eat a large burger or burrito while negotiating a vehicle. Your car will travel at least 500 feet while peeling back the foil wrapper on a Mondo from Taco Del Mar or a Zippy Burger, and it's very difficult to take in the brilliance of a tangy chipotle sauce while driving with your knees.

2) Try not to drive to work in the morning—take the bus. I understand that this can be inconvenient, and crowded public transportation can smell like the sleeping quarters on The Deadliest Catch, but morning and evening commutes are when drivers are stressed and on their worst behavior.

3) If a car's turn signal stays on for over a mile, they're probably not going to turn. Chances are that they've cranked up Iron Maiden so high that they can't hear the doink, doinking of the signal.

4) Beware drivers who cut you off abruptly. Usually, it's because they've finally spotted an Arby's, they need to exit, and can only get there from your lane. Back off immediately or you'll be eating their brake lights.

5) People who tailgate you are passive-aggressively reprimanding you for not moving at what they consider to be the appropriate speed.  These are some of the drivers whom I've fantasized about—in evil ways. My devious plots have included tapping into their radios and yelling at them in the voice of their dead grandmother or using my mental powers to render certain muscles in their body "uncontrollable," if you understand what I'm saying.

6) As the great George Carlin once said, "Anyone driving faster than us is a 'maniac,' and anyone driving slower than us is an 'idiot.'" When encountering one of these types, rather than churning with hot, piercing anger, my advice is to go out of your way to establish eye contact. This is a technique for acknowledging each other's humanity. Remember, that slow driver may be someone's great uncle who defended your freedom in the trenches of Gallipoli during World War I.

7) If you decide to use the tool of last resort, the "Digit of No Return," make sure you don't know the person you're flipping off. I've done this. It's bad.

I guess that's about it for now. We'll practice this weekend out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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