By Mike Pound
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I took our 14-year-old daughter for a test drive the other day.
It wasn’t a test drive in the sense that we tested a new car. It was a test drive in the sense that it was a test to see if Emma will be able to drive a car at all.
Emma will soon turn 15, which means she will be eligible to obtain a learner’s permit. For years I’ve been dreading this whole learning-to-drive thing, but after spending most of my free time driving Emma around the Four-State Area, I changed my mind. Now I can’t wait until Emma learns to drive.
A few weeks ago, my wife brought home a book for Emma to study so she will be able to pass the test to get her permit. So far, I don’t think Emma has opened the book. Emma is a bit nervous about driving despite the fact that several of her friends already drive. Katie, Emma’s friend from across the street, is a year older than Emma and has been driving for a few months now. She is a big help to my wife and me. Now, rather than having to get out and drive Emma to school, all I have to do is wave to Emma as she gets into Katie’s car. Katie also drives Emma to dance team practice in the afternoon and dance classes in the evening. Katie is a regular Morgan Freeman to Emma’s Miss Daisy.
But Emma can’t rely on Katie to drive her around for the rest of her life. At least that’s what Lana, Katie’s mom, said when I asked. Emma is going to have to learn to drive.
So on a recent Saturday afternoon, when Emma and I were on our way home from a trip to Joplin, I stopped in a large and empty parking lot. Emphasis on the words “large” and “empty.” Mr. Magoo would have been able to drive in this parking lot.
Emma asked why I pulled in.
“So you can try driving,” I said.
“I’m walking home now,” Emma said.
Eventually, I convinced Emma that the parking lot was a perfect place to practice driving, and we both got out and exchanged seats. When Emma got into the driver’s seat I told her to put her seat belt on and then I told her to adjust the seat so she was comfortable.
“How do I do that?” Emma asked.
“There is a button on the side,” I said.
Emma turned on the windshield wipers.
“Not that side,” I said.
Finally, Emma found the right button and moved the seat forward. Then I told her to start the engine. Emma turned the windshield wipers on.
“Turn the key,” I said.
Emma turned the engine on, and I told her to put her foot on the brake and to then put the car into drive.
Emma turned the windshield wipers on.
“Use the gear shift,” I said.
Emma put the car into drive. The car didn’t move.
“Not so slowly,” I said.
The car raced forward.
“Not so fast!” I said.
Eventually Emma found a safe, comfortable speed and she started driving through the parking lot.
“This is fun,” Emma said.
“Turn right,” I said.
Emma turned right. After a while, Emma got the hang of things and did a fine job of driving around the parking lot. She turned left, she turned right and she practiced parking.
When I finally had her stop the car and put it in park, it was beginning to rain. I asked Emma to turn the windshield wipers on.
Emma moved the seat.
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