I dropped Our Daughter off at school today for driver's ed.
This kid will be
Seems like yesterday I was sitting in an auditorium at East Meadow High School on Long Island listening to our two instructors drone on about traffic safety and hoping desperately not to be assigned to the tremendously obese instructor for the actual driving portion of the class. I don't recall his name, but I've never forgotten how he hiked his pants up under his moobs in an attempt to cover his belly. Sure enough, I ended up assigned to his group. Because of his girth, the front bench seat of the driver's ed vehicle had to be rolled all the way back, making it nearly impossible for me to reach the pedals. I have no idea how the short kids in the group even managed to get the car in gear.
That was twenty-eight years ago, and now it's Our Daughter's turn.
She must already be dreaming about that perfect first car. A fashion statement to match her nails and cell phone cover, a status symbol to declare her position in the "Lord of the Flies" pecking order of high school, the purchase of her first car could require countless hours of online research, test drives and color matching. Luckily for her, no such investment of time and energy need be made. The solution to her problem sits safely in our garage.
For years, I've joked with Our Daughter that when the time came for her to drive she would inherit my Toyota Echo. Her response, even when the reality of driving was a far off distant dream?
Admittedly, the Echo is not a sexy car. It's small, stick, and has that odd centered dash that took some getting used too but which I now really enjoy. It didn't come with power steering, a cd player, or even a clock. It could never be a roadtrip party vehicle because there are only two doors, meaning back seat passengers have to climb in and out like clowns at the circus. There are no leather seats, no electric windows or mirror controls. The air-conditioning system is barely more potent than hanging ice cubes from the rearview mirror. And last week it clocked its 190,000th mile. Oh, I almost forgot, the dark green paint job is marred by a decade of attacks by bikes, balls, bats and a battery of assorted childhood weaponry.
But it's been paid off for six years and gets forty miles to the gallon -- city driving! And if she abuses it, forgets to change the oil (as I frequently did with my first car), or chooses to blanket the poor thing with bumper stickers, what's the loss? It's not like the car is a hot classic with collectors clamoring to outbid each other for it. Even Toyota stopped manufacturing it after only a few years and replaced it with the Yaris. The Yaris!!!
And so, Our Daughter has a hard reality to face. Sometimes the liberties of a free society come at a cost. In this case, that cost might very well be a pound of pride paid each morning she pulls that uncontestedly unsexy green car into the high school parking lot.
© 2012 Mark Feggeler