Illustration by Aaron Roseli. © Style Media Group
One dictionary defines “jittery” as “having or feeling nervous unease.”
I would also suggest the inclusion of “See: Parent with teenager learning to drive.”
I am now on my second go-round with a teen working toward their license. The first, my daughter Emma, was several years ago, and a lingering eye twitch from that time is hardly noticeable anymore.
The people who do extreme sports? That thrill-seeking X Games crowd with their canisters of energy drinks looking for the next big adrenaline rush? They should try riding shotgun with my son, Joe, the next time he has to merge into the merciless metallic whitewater of Pleasant Grove Boulevard on a weekday afternoon. They’ll come away more wired than Shawn White whizzing on an electric fence. They’ll pound a Red Bull just to calm down.
There really should be some sort of sign you can attach to your vehicle indicating to other drivers that whatever just happened, might happen or is about to happen—you’re incredibly sorry. Depending on the situation, the sign could light up with either an apology or the phone number of your insurance agent. I work in radio; maybe I could get Julie Ryan, our traffic reporter, to create a new feature alerting drivers that, for example, this afternoon at 4 p.m., 15-year-old Tyler Smith of Folsom will be attempting to drive his mom to the Palladio for the first time and here’s the route they’ll be taking so, you know, avoid the area.
It’s important to remember that as nervous and stressed as you might be in the passenger’s seat, your child is probably double that. So maintaining a Zen-like composure is, at all times, imperative. Yeah, right.
Instructions often start off calmly: You notice a red light a quarter of a mile up ahead. Traffic is stopping, but your son doesn’t seem to be seeing the same thing as you. You gently remind him: “Slow down.” But your Buddha-like command goes unheeded. So you repeat it a little louder, and a little less influenced by Eastern philosophy: “Slow down!”
Apparently he’s daydreaming about Skittles again, and whether you really can taste a rainbow, because that doesn’t register either. Screw Zen. Bracing yourself against the dashboard you bellow “SLOWDOWNSLOWDOWNSLOWDOWN!” Which works. You come to a screeching halt about a hair’s breadth from the bumper in front of you, at which point your son turns to you and scolds, “CHILL DAD! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO YELL?”
At that point, it’s important not to engage them. The danger is over. The lesson, learned. So instead, take a deep breath, gather your composure and calmly instruct your child to take you home... because you need to change your underwear.
This is true: Joe recently attempted to get on the freeway for the first time. As he was getting up to speed, I saw him check his mirror. Good, I thought, adding out loud, “...now look over your shoulder.” So he did. His right shoulder. Once we had somehow successfully merged onto the highway and I’d stopped hyperventilating, I asked him why he’d look over his right shoulder. He was apologetic. “Sorry, I’m just used to looking over that one whenever I back up.” I’ve never wanted a cigarette so badly in my life, and I’ve never smoked.
So, if you’re out there driving around and you see a vehicle driving so badly that cars in front of it are honking, don’t automatically assume the worst. Unless they’re heading straight at you, take a moment to see who’s behind the wheel. If it’s a kid, cut them some slack, and take pity on that poor, terrified-looking adult in the passenger’s seat. They probably need to change their pants.