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  • November 22, 2014

Car Troubles - Ladue News: Tangential Thinker

Car Troubles

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:00 pm

Summer is here. I know that not because of the magical June cloudbursts, nor the brilliant summer blooms. I know that not because of the smell of chlorine in newly opened pools, nor the waft of charcoal from a grill. I know it is summer because I am suddenly called upon to drive three over-scheduled children to various destinations all day, every day without the reprieve of an eight-hour school day. I am telling you there are air traffic controllers at Lambert who haven’t handled as many routes in a day.

So I don’t know if it was desperation, exhaustion or practicality that softened my stance on letting Cranky Whiny and Punch drive with friends or siblings or ‘that guy from camp,’ but the daily runs from Chesterfield to Busch Stadium and points beyond and in-between have broken me. Uncle.

Cranky is 15, so whenever she can find alternative transportation, she leaps at the opportunity. The good news: She has several friends who have their licenses. The bad news: She has several friends who have their licenses. It’s almost as if the kids turn 16, and they get a license. I don’t understand the system today. Did they always give out drivers licenses to any kid on the street who asked for one? Like a coupon for half off a Dilly bar with your purchase of a Brazier Burger?

If memory serves, when I got my license, I went to an unmarked facility on the outskirts of town. I then took an elevator to a sub-basement and walked down a long hall through a series of doors--all of which opened and closed differently. (OK, part of that may be the opening sequence of Get Smart, but it’s basically accurate.) I’m pretty sure I walked past a room of people conducting extensive martial-arts drills and another where white-jacketed scientists were injecting rats with an unknown substance and taking copious notes. Once in the testing area, I was seated with the few elite teens who had been selected to take the written portion of the driver’s test. We answered the multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay and oral exam questions, while being forced to watch black-and-white super 8 video of head-on collisions. One wrong answer, and you were banned from testing again for three years. Actually, the entire test could have been comprised of parallel-parking my mother’s Chevy Caprice station wagon—it would have been equally selective.

In any event, apparently they’ve eased the restrictions a bit and 16-year-olds are driving everywhere…with my kids in the car. Surprisingly rapidly, familiarity--or laziness--has settled in, and I am happy to rely on the kindness of other drivers. And in six short months, I will have a 16-year-old driver of my own. A driver who can shuttle friends, drive on the highway, and come and go as she pleases. It sounds great…really great. I’m counting the minutes.

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