Driving Lessons

I could sell car insurance with this photo by Joseph De PalmaImage by Joseph De Palma

Driving Lessons

At the edge of the busy intersection, I hesitated. Was it my turn? I crept forward, but the car on my right darted in. I looked both ways, crept forward again. The car opposite me lurched ahead. It must be my turn now. I gently pressed my foot on the gas pedal, but the Jeep on my left moved forward too. I slammed on the brakes. Stuck there, blocking the way, horns blaring. Gridlock.

“Don’t pussyfoot around!” My dad screamed at me from the passenger seat, spit flying, making me cringe and slink down in the driver’s seat. Another driver threw an obscene gesture my way. “Make your decision, and go!”

I was 16 and enduring another driving lesson from my impatient father. The lessons pained me terribly, but, wanting nothing more than to get my driver’s license, I would always beg for another one.

Driving scared me. An insecure introvert, I always hesitated to make my move. My dad was the opposite, a take-charge kind of guy, sometimes to a fault.

Joe and David with pony 1998Once he wanted my older son to have his first pony ride at a fair. The line stretched out and curved around to the Ferris wheel, and we had to leave. My dad charged right up to the front, crossed the barrier, and plopped the kid on the pony.

I heard some complaints when he cut the line, but most of the waiting people were subdued. His act must have been so brazen that they assumed he had a right to it.

I cowered, trying my best to ignore the comments. My dad? I couldn’t tell if he was unaware of the complaints or knew and didn’t care, but my son got his first pony ride that day as my dad beamed alongside him.

I somehow made it through my driving lessons in one piece, but I spent the next 30 years battling my timidity. Now in middle age, I choose boldness more and more. I’ll hear my dad’s words ringing in my ears: “Don’t pussyfoot around!”

In a meeting, I’ll sometimes call bullshit when there’s bullshit, gunning into the intersection like I own the place. At a party, I’ll sometimes strike up a conversation with a person I don’t know, laying on the horn to make myself heard.

It’s exhilarating, liberating, empowering, all the -ings I’ve heard about for years but never felt myself.

My older son just turned 16. He’s a brilliant high-achiever, but he’s doubly cursed by two shy parents, and I see the timidity in him.

It’s time for him to begin driving lessons.

Don’t pussyfoot around, kid. Don’t pussyfoot around.

David driving lessons

button 150x150  This is part of a series, Scene from a Memoir.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days, and writing my memoirs. I am a teacher and writer living in Connecticut.
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39 Responses to Driving Lessons

  1. Hahahahahaha! Awesome. I love how your father’s words echo in your mind. And I love the piece. I’m here from Yeah Write. It’s my first time, but I’ve been writing forever.

    And, guess what? I wrote about driving, too.

    Don’t freak out.

    Your son is going to be okay.

    I’m sure people like the driver in my piece are not in the majority.

    Probably.

    ;)

  2. Agh! That was MY dad and MY driving lessons you were describing! Ha! I just wish I had inherited some of his confidence, although I did learn some of my own over the years…
    Love the way you wove the driving metaphor throughout, btw. Well done!

  3. Chrystal says:

    Your post made me smile. I love the pic of your son behind the wheel, classic!

  4. Jen says:

    Your dad is my mom. I am trying hard not to be too much like my mom, thanks for the reminder :-)

  5. modmomelleroy says:

    I love the expression on his face. My mom taught me to drive with that imaginary brake pedal on the passenger’s side. She still does it and I’m a pretty reasonable driver. And she loves the new handles to hang onto for dear life. haha It should be interesting when my boys are ready to drive. Good luck Mama!

    • Marcy says:

      That’s funny. I press that imaginary pedal on the passenger’s side, too, when my husband drives. He’s a great driver, though, and I love to let him do the driving.

  6. My mom taught me how to drive, because my dad, though wonderful, is stubborn and impatient, and would definitely not have been a stellar driving instructor. My mom may have had the imaginary drivers side pedal, but she was calm, cool and collected even when I did things like hit the side of the garage and tear the front bumper off the car. Whoops.

    • Marcy says:

      Glad you had a calm teacher. I was a terrible driver and definitely pushed my dad over the edge of his patience! I crashed into a convenience store one time just trying to park. :(

  7. My dad took me driving once and then signed me up for private lessons. There was just no way he could teach me himself; I was a bad — HORRIBLE — driver and he just didn’t have the patience. Apparently, the paid instructor didn’t do a very good job either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve messed up my car just trying to get it into the garage.

  8. Best of luck to your son, but I am really feeling your pain over that pony ride. That one would have made me squirm and my ears burn.

  9. Robbie says:

    My bff taught me how to drive. Although my dad was amazingly patient I knew it was also very stressful for him. I had n desire to get my driver’s license either. This brought back such wonderful memories but I’m also stressed thinking about teaching my not yet 12 year old how to drive.

  10. as my step dad always says, apple don’t fall far from the tree.
    glad you embraced your boldness and it’s working for you. :)

  11. Jared Karol says:

    Awesome connection between your dad and your son. Concise, emotional (but not sappy). . . it all worked. My kids are only four, but I can tell that in twelve years I’m going to be like your dad. . . “don’t pussyfoot around, kid!” :)

  12. iasoupmama says:

    I learner to drive a manual after one exhausting lesson with my dad. I stalled the car twelve times in twenty feet and he gave up. I eventually got it, though.

  13. Esther says:

    I love your comparison of the social world to driving! it is so true! In both you have to know when to be bold. Good luck to your son!

  14. Lots of good analogies here! I dread the day my son is old enough to learn to drive – I’m not looking forward to giving lessons!

  15. Ken says:

    I learned to drive from both my dad and my mom. It’s funny, now if for some reason that I have to ride in her car, her driving scares the heck out of me!

    I have one son left to teach. I try keep calm and open minded and stick to back country roads. :)

  16. Ahahah! The frown-of-terror is beyond perfect here. I love that you are finding your voice!

  17. Ericamos says:

    After a few lessons, I refused to drive with my dad and only had my mom take me practicing. It wasn’t even that he was pushy or bold, but for some reason, we butted heads like no other! Being a shy person myself, I can relate to the feelings of speaking out, or striking up conversation. I think most of my brazenness happened in college while I was living away from home and out of my comfort zone. Now that I’ve found myself a new comfort zone, I’m having a hard time breaking out. But thanks to your reminder of that exhilarating feeling, I’m going to put more effort into it. :)

  18. dalrie says:

    I’m an introvert too! So much I don’t even have a license. My dad was SO much like yours and I refused to let him teach me. I pussyfooted around too much…dang it…

  19. Erica M says:

    It is killing me dead that after barging the pony line, you guys had time to take a photo with your dad just beaming about the whole thing. I love him now.

  20. Love it! My oldest has his permit now too ;)

  21. Lila says:

    Beautifully written.

  22. I prefer my 16yo to be cautious…but you do make a good point and make it well!

    • Marcy says:

      It’s hard to find that line between cautious and timid. I don’t want him to be reckless, but I don’t want him to avoid living his life fully.

  23. LOL! love it! Thanks for Rewinding.

  24. So good that you’re encouraging your son and giving him confidence. I think I would have hid when your dad jumped the line, but been secretly grateful too :)

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