My son the math genius and I were rushing to his driving test, so I was surprised when he flicked on the right blinker for a detour.
“I’m just going to practice backing in for a minute,” David said.
Despite having 18 months to prepare, he needed to practice now. I obliged, but he was rude when he thought my instructions weren’t precise enough. “Google it!” he yelled, so we spent 15 anxious minutes on eHow while he missed the parking spot by a good three feet.
He finally got it, and we made it to the test one minute after his 5 p.m. appointment.
I handed over the paperwork.
“The VIN doesn’t match,” the DMV worker said.
“The VIN on your insurance card and your registration don’t match.”
“That card’s not for this car.” She handed me the DMV’s fax number. “You have six minutes to have your insurance company fax us your insurance card, or you’ll have to reschedule the test.”
Months before, my husband had handed me my insurance card for my Saturn, or rather, he had accidentally handed me his insurance card for his Saturn. My insurance card was in his car, at home, where I would have been, possibly with a glass of wine in my hand, if he hadn’t gotten stuck in traffic.
I called the insurance company at 5:05 and got a recording that their office closed at 5. No driving test.
It was a long ride home. I was angry at my husband, but I also groused to David that we would have had time to get the insurance card faxed over if he hadn’t failed to practice for 18 months.
“You share the blame equally,” he said, “because you should have checked the VIN, and you shouldn’t have let me practice backing in.”
I resisted the urge to plunge my hand into his chest and pull out his still-beating heart. I said, “That’s unacceptable. I’m not talking to you until you apologize.”
I knew this was a stupid thing to say, but there we were, and several days of cold shoulders passed.
I reopened the conversation thinking he would at least admit it was ridiculous to blame me for letting him practice. By then, though, he had spin-doctored it into a logical proof that went something like this:
“If Mom checked the VIN and David practiced backing in, then test; if Mom didn’t check the VIN and David didn’t practice backing in, then test; ergo, Mom and David bear equal responsibility. Q.E.D.”
I insisted I was blameless.
David then offered to make me a Venn diagram if it would help me understand. I stared at his heart beating in his chest. We were not ready to make up.
After a few more days, I tried a new approach.
“I’ll give you 5%,” I said. “Dad: 70% of the blame, you: 25%, me: 5%.”
We went back and forth. He offered: “Dad: 70%, me: 17%, you: 13%.”
I grasped his hand and held it for a moment. “And it was ridiculous to say I shouldn’t have let you practice backing in.”
He countered: “And my statement was poorly timed and poorly phrased.”
We shook on it.
“Dan,” he said to his brother, “did you see how I got Mom up to 260% of her initial offer?”
I added: “And did you see how David admitted he’s a doofus?”
We all laughed.
And that’s how you restore the peace mathematically. Who says you don’t use math in real life?
Related post: Driving Lessons