I have driving on the brain.
Maybe because I see others packing up their overnight bags, and stocking coolers with cheese sticks and juice boxes in order to hop away for impromptu weekend road trips.
Or, maybe because summer brings out the “Sunday drivers,” the “thrill-seekers,” and the few brave Midwestern souls who own convertibles — those who stare at their calendars waiting to pounce on the couple of months where they won’t freeze upon contact with the open air.
But, mostly, I think it’s because my oldest (shudder) started Driver’s Education this week.
I’m stuck smack between excitement on her behalf over this grand learning adventure, and contacting my local congressman to lobby for a law changing the legal driving age to twenty-one. Okay, twenty-five.
This new dynamic has brought up a lot of memories, too — namely the story that has become legend to my family:
The Story of Amanda and the Possum
I was fifteen, and driving on a permit with my dad as my mostly-willing passenger. We were on our way to a basketball game at school, and it was dark and cold, and not as pretty on the road as it is in the forgiving sunshine.
In my Driver’s Ed class, the number one rule our teacher stressed was, “Keep yourself and your passengers safe!” I’m sure I had this in mind that night as I held my hands steady on the wheel, driving well below the speed limit.
So, we were innocently tooling along the quiet residential street (maybe listening to a little Janet Jackson), when a huge possum suddenly darted into the road!
It looked at me through the glare of headlights, standing up on hind legs to its full height (which, you know, was probably about 9ft tall), and dared me to inch closer. (For a reenactment of the evil stare, see photo above.)
In that moment, I mentally went through the chapter from my Driver’s Ed book called, “What to do if There is an Animal in the Road.” This is what I knew: Humans came first. (“Keep yourself and your passengers safe!”)
I checked my mirrors — there was no one behind me. I scanned ahead — there were no cars coming toward me. I noted my speed — I was going approximately very slow miles per hour. I surveyed the sidewalks — no pedestrians.
Checklist completed, I felt certain of the appropriate steps I needed to take. I took a deep breath, lifted my foot from the gas pedal, and then…floored it to about 80 mph, whamming straight through that taunting sucker of a possum which then thumped, and thudded, and caused an overall clatter and commotion against our four-door sedan.
I sighed in relief. My father looked at me with his mouth hanging open, unable to speak. After a minute, he collected himself and asked:
“What did you do that for???!!!”
My eyebrows furrowed — this wasn’t the expression of gratitude I had expected. “I was saving your life,” I said.
No matter that I could have easily and safely stopped, or even swerved. I had seen those beady black eyes staring at me, and all I could think was, “Save the humans!” which apparently meant the same thing as, “Violently run over the wildlife!” Don’t judge — my heart was in the right place.
My daughter laughs when I tell this story, certain she’ll never make the same foolish mistake. And, I agree. She’ll probably make plenty of her own.
I only hope that the car (or the animal) takes the brunt of it.
(R.I.P., oh possum of my driving nightmares.)
So, how about you? Do you have any newbie-driver horror stories? Are you going to report me for animal cruelty? Please share your driving adventures in the comments, so I can make sure my Worried-Mom List is well-rounded and complete. Thank you!
Find me on Twitter @amandahoving
Thanks for indulging my recent trips down memory lane. We’ll be back to books and writing next week.