Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Driving with Jay - Story Jar

Driving with Jay

Wellsville, 1998: An important element in teaching Jay to drive was teaching me not to scream. There were moments when fear and anxiety welled up inside and beat their little fists against my throat until I yelped or yelled or squeaked with apprehension – at various volumes. Jay complained that my screams made him nervous and that I really had to get a grip. Gee.

The thing was that I wanted the car to slow down before Jay started slowing down. Occasionally, pedestrians (including Larry, the crossing guard one day) did not get the right of way. One morning, Em’s Geo’s tail pipe/muffler made rapid contact with the front porch bending it up under the car as if it were merely aluminum foil.
We collected bits and splinters of the porch spindles and railing - Rick’s recent summer project - and put the damaged car into the garage then I insisted that Jay drive my car to school.

The problem for all of these incidents was that Jay had a tough time remembering which foot ruled the brake and which the gas. Trying to be logical about this, sometimes he would avoid both pedals while he thought about it. Unfortunately, time couldn’t stop while he mentally chewed his choices.

Jay didn’t explain this until after a white-knuckled whoosh down Madison Hill. The car picked up speed coasting downhill and, noticing other cars stopped at the traffic light, I suggested slowing down. Jay intently looked forward and the car intently sped. I gently called his name, admirably controlling myself but he remained frozen.

I considered three options (screaming, grabbing his arm and being patient) –okay four options (invading his space to smack the brakes) as the nanoseconds whipped with wind around the car. Then Jay touched the brake, sighed and really thumped it. After we stopped Jay said that he appreciated my squeezing the begeebers out of the armrest instead of screaming while he was thinking about the pedals.

Of course he knew we were speeding downward but figured that getting the gas would make things worse so he wanted to be sure before he chose. After that day he remembered where the brake was.

He had less trouble with the manual transmission in the truck though that wasn’t always smooth. One time Rick picked Jay up at the school. Jay revved the engine, popped the clutch practically doing a wheelie and nearly mated with Elsie Swartz’s much-loved, red Thunderbird. Rick claims to have remained calm and advised Jay to back up and give himself a bit more room.

Jay had a lot of experience with the truck when he was tiny. He’d sit on Rick’s lap and “steer” the truck when taking garbage to the dump. Later, he and Emilie “drove” on back roads when I wasn’t around. Part of the deal was, “Don’t tell Mom.”

Of course we all have stories about learning to drive. My favorite is that while demonstrating figure 8s during my motorcycle road test, some demon force goosed the throttle and sent me bouncing over the curb, through a shrub and up two steps before I stopped. I thought a bit of levity was in order but my brother couldn’t have been more embarrassed when I asked the examiner if I could have one more try.

1 comment:

Emilie said...

oh, poor jay--and just before his birthday! he does drive just fine now anyway...