You’ll have to excuse me. I’m a little self-conscious of my knuckles. They’re whiter than normal.
That’s because of the lot that I’m hanging around with these days. And before I go too deeply into that matter, may I simply say that I, at the nimble age of 50, am smack-dab in the middle of my prime motor-driving years? I’m well past my 20s when, perhaps, it may be admitted, my foot was heavier on the accelerator mechanism than it needed to be. And I’m past my 30s, when pagers and cell phones were new and unusual devices and we truly had no idea that using them while operating a two-ton vehicle at 40 miles per hour was akin to driving with a BAC of 0.18.
No! I’m past all that. I am, if I say so myself, in peak condition. I follow the speed limit to the law, smirk at those I see pulled over while my hands assume the 10- and 2-o’clock positions, never answer cell phone calls while the vehicle is moving, and no, no, no, certainly don’t text. Except for that one time, which we don’t count.
And, so, it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I am finding myself, more often, in the passenger side of the auto. Our older son, just months out of the womb, as memory serves, has somehow acquired a driver’s permit. I haven’t seen the keys in days.
“I’ll drive ya, Dad!” he says, as I sit gazing quietly out the window, contemplating the need to pop over to Dunn Bros for a pound of coffee.
And so, into the car we go. He pulls away from the curb and, despite his obvious nascent talent for the basics of such an operation, my knuckles grip the provided bar and my foot gropes for the non-existent brake.
“Slow down. No, speed up. You’re too close to the parked cars. Go to the left! No! You’re too close to the moving cars. Go to the right, the RIGHT!” And so it goes. It’s a voice that harkens back to, oh, about 35 years ago, when I, too, was first learning. I am echoing my father’s keen and, from this vantage point, prescient instructions.
Which reminds me. Shortly after my most recent excursion with my 15-year-old behind the wheel, I was treated to an even more entertaining fun-house scream-ride with said father. He, who is now close to 85, continues to tool around the streets of Edina and Southwest Minneapolis quite willy-nilly.
I have no doubt you’re probably thinking, this guy is overly controlling — sit back and enjoy the ride, dude. I’m NOT saying 15 year olds should not be allowed to drive our city’s streets. I’m NOT saying we should wait until our children hit the far more mature age of, oh, say, 25, 26, before being allowed to operate a vehicle. I’m NOT saying that the drivers’ licenses should immediately be taken away from those who reach the august age of 85 years old. I’m NOT saying OK, fine, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying, why should I — I, at the ultimate peak of my driving capabilities and experience — turn over the wheel to a neophyte and a post-phyte?
Here’s why. Because, as it turns out, the side-by-side seating arrangement in my car is the best opportunity we men/boys have for man-to-man conversations. And, what do we talk about? The dating scene. Oh, dear god, I am at that point in my life where I am giving dating advice to both my son and my father.
Turn in to this drive-through here, son. I need to order the sandwich-generation special to go.
Glenn Miller heads up Miller & Associates, a corporate video production company (glennmillerandassociates.com). He and his wife, Jocelyn Hale, share this column.