Writing

Stories From The Road (Or, Make A Move And The Opossum Gets It!)

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!

And stopped!

And stared!

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!

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Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

Thanks for indulging my recent trips down memory lane. We’ll be back to books and writing next week.

43 thoughts on “Stories From The Road (Or, Make A Move And The Opossum Gets It!)”

  1. I was a slow learner and didn’t get my permit until I was in my late sixteenth year. I was a cautious driver but to this day, I have trouble with spatial relationships, i.e. how to park the car properly. When I had my permit, I was backing into our turnaround driveway (that’s the way Daddy wanted it) and backed up a little too far and hit the house. I was the butt of jokes for weeks. To show you that my parking skills have not changed much, several weeks ago I had a sticky note posted on my car with the words “Nice Driving.” The front wheel of my care was one inch over the white line of the parking space. Someone I live near is anal and passive aggressive.

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  2. Your relating the family-famous possum legend gave me a good laugh this morning and is a great Father’s Day gift. He’ll love the retelling, getting another thrill out of how you once saved his life! As you know, he remembers the event well. Love, Your Mother

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  3. Amanda, how I laughed when your Mom told me this story years, I won’t say how many, ago. And, if I remember rightly, the demise of the critter was almost in front of our house. I certainly enjoy reading your stories. Rita Crosse

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  4. Happy to have come across your blog today, Amanda!

    My newbie driver story? You know how in the movies, the cars jump a pond of water while being chased? That doesn’t really happen in real life…

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  5. I learned the hard way that you have to STOP at the red light before you turn “right on red.” Oh, and I’m pretty sure you were listening to Erasure… “Oh baby, pleeeease, give a little respect tooooo me!”

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  6. ‘violently run over wildlife!’ so awesome. (i mean from a writing perspective, not that i advocate killing wildlife).

    i have no real adventures. only that i once rolled through an intersection when i had the red light because i was day dreaming (i was 17). luckily, no one was coming. i don’t daydream and drive anymore though.

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  7. I have a bad driving instructor story, LOL. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 21 (our school didn’t offer it, and it was too expensive to go to a driving school when I was in high school), so I was more mature than most first time drivers. I had two driving instructors, my aunt and my uncle. Sadly, my aunt only lasted one driving trip.

    She wanted me to drive her somewhere so I could practice driving. Everything was going smoothly until I had to turn at a light. Unbeknownst to me, I crossed my arms while turning (righ arm over left as I was turning the wheel). My horrified aunt hurriedly slapped my hands off the steering MID-TURN. I pulled to the side and stared at her in horror. Didn’t she know we could have been killed because she slapped the driver’s hands off the steering wheel while she was executing a turn? She looked at me with the same horror. Didn’t I know we could have been killed if my crossed arms prevented me from reacting swiftly to an oncoming vehicle? Neither of our nerves could take it, so she politely stepped down and allowed my uncle to be my sole teacher.

    My advice would be to let someone made of more patient, sterner stuff than my aunt teach her how to drive. These days, I’m a great driver she doesn’t mind riding with, thanks to my uncle. 😀

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    1. Sorry, but I had to laugh at the thought of your aunt slapping at your hands.

      I’m hoping to be very calm and collected in the car. But that will probably only happen if I keep large quantities of chocolate nearby.

      Thanks for sharing your story, 2blu!

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  8. Amanda, your posts are always the best!

    A week after I got my license, I cut across a parking lot (which I had been firmly instructed NEVER to do), and crashed my dad’s beautiful 1965 T-bird. Not nearly as funny as a possum — and no beady, black eyes — but there you go. Good luck with the student driver. I have a few more years before I get to that worry/panic attack.

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  9. So funny (the possum, not your daughter getting her permit)! The driver training is not as bad as when they get their license and can drive solo… nerve-wracking! Not easy as a parent! My daughter used to get annoyed at me for gripping the door handle 🙂 One week after I got MY license, a car in front of me slammed on its brakes at a light and I rear ended them (I was alone in the car, so terrified). Thank goodness I never went through that as a parent!

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    1. The statistics they’ve given about all of the accidents that happen within the first year (and teenage years) of driving…ugh! Makes me queasy. Glad you didn’t have to experience that with your kids, Julia.

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  10. First, I love the new avatar – now I know exactly what you look like (adorable)!

    Second, I laughed so hard over this story. I never would have pegged you for being stoned by animal-rights activists, but it’s a distinct possibility after revealing this tale.

    As for me, I was and am a perfect driver (RIP many, many mailboxes, my sideview mirror, and several dings and dents). But I’m thankful for the fact that I lived in NYC for 8 years, which has a lovely subway.

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    1. Thank you, Tarja!

      I’ll admit — I was a little worried about posting this story for fear of stoning. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has now put me on some list. And it’s not a good one.

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  11. LOL. I was taught that too. Don’t swerve, speed up! I think it’s meant for deer though, Amanda. But I feel for ya, I did something similar to a baby bunny that was darting back and forth in fear, and I didn’t mean to hit it but it kept moving. My friends in the car wouldn’t let me forget it all day!

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    1. Hmmm…deer may be right. But you should have seen this mammoth possum! Also, I think if you’re able to stop, you’re supposed to stop. Which I kind of ignored, and decided to go all Rambo-like instead.

      Sorry about the bunny. 😦

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  12. That was the laugh I needed today. Thank you for sharing your driver’s ed tail…I mean tale. My second daughter, now driving with me stomping a hole in the floorboard of the passenger side, (they should really issue those teacher brakes to parents) had a cat run across her path the other night. She didn’t see it until it was on the other side of the road, at which time she screamed, “CAT!!!” and applied the breaks. So that’s our new inside joke. I’ll sneak up behind her and randomly yell, “CAT!”

    My best friend and I took drivers ed together. Our third passenger was a boy who lacked driving skills. He put us in a ditch and nearly drove us off a cliff overlooking a lake. Exciting times, driver’s ed!

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    1. I’m laughing at your CAT story, Michelle! A nice bonding moment. Also, I can now add “Warn about driving over a cliff” onto my Worried-Mom List. So, thanks! 😉

      Going to pop over to your blog now…thank you for stopping by~

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  13. The possum story was hilarious. I laughed so loud my cat got annoyed with me and left the room. I can’t believe you murdered the poor thing! I’m not any better, though. Here’s a confession: I don’t stop for pigeons in the road.

    Learning to drive was a scary adventure for me. I have very little depth perception and I learned to drive in a huge boat of a car. As a result, I continually ruined tires by hitting curbs. The guy at the tire store knew my dad by name and kept those tires in stock. It was so embarrassing. I’ve gotten better – I haven’t ruined a tire in three years 🙂

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  14. That’s great! Way to keep the humans safe. I had a raccoon dart out in front of me a couple weeks back on the turnpike. I swerved and he ran back in front of my tires as we went about 85 mph. Clearly he was looking to end it all. At least it was quick.

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  15. LOL oh geez this was funny. What makes it even funnier was that shortly after I got my drivers license, three friends and I were driving on a Friday night when an possum ran out in front of us and I almost plowed it over! We screamed and swerved in the car – thank god no one got hurt because I almost sacrificed all of us for that beady eyed little guy that seemed to come out of nowhere LOL!

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  16. Thank you for the giggle this evening. It reminded me of the squirrel I killed and in my rear view mirror, watched in horror as it suffer an epileptic seizure. And that almost got me in another accident.

    My dad always taught me to never brake for animals. You, my dear, took this to an entirely different level!

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  17. What a great story! I mean…poor possum.

    Though I never hit a critter, I ran over a multitude of curbs and medians and even managed to get my car stuck on one. That’s an embarrassing story that involved the most popular boy in my high school class being witness to the whole event, and then hoo-hawing with his friends later.

    Good times 🙂

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  18. Poor Mr. Opossum. Reminds me of the traumatic experience I had as a passenger going to high school as my older sister drove smack-dab into a pheasant, which, mind you, we could see from the hill we were barreling down. She had PLENTY of room and time to stop, but she whacked right into it, and I saw it’s poor little eyes and beak flash by my head as it skidded along the windshield. Ah… something I will never forget, nor will I ever forgive her for. But I’m glad you learned YOUR lesson :-). Apparently my sister didn’t (or just had bad luck with large birds), because she also ran over a beautiful owl one night that was in the middle of the road. And a rabbit. And a snake. And ….Me, I try like hell to miss the animals … except for the time it was me coming over a hill, a deer standing in the middle of the road on the other side of that hill, and two 5-foot deep ditches on each side. I tried to slow, but kept the car steady and straight, closed my eyes and yes … did what you did to the opossum, for fear of hurting myself even worse and totaling my car. Another animal face sliding across my windshield … Not good. And MAJOR GUILT over that one.

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  19. The picture of that beady-eyed opossum is what takes your story over the edge! Love, love it! As for my worst driving experience…well, let’s just say it involved going 80 in a 40, a police chase, almost getting pistol-whipped, and a court date before a glowering judge–during which I laughed (as did my mother). My excuse for running from the police was that I couldn’t hear their sirens because I had a monster sound system, which is actually very true.

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