Sitting back and enjoying the drive

Living with a learner driver is like having your own chauffeur

For the last nine months, I’ve had a chauffeur. It’s been lovely.

Until now, the closest I’ve come to knowing what it’s like to have a domestic servant is watching Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey (which hasn’t been the same since—spoiler alert!—Gwen left in season one to pursue her dreams of being a secretary). Having a personal driver has been enjoyable; but like all good things, it must come to an end.

Those with long memories will recall that, almost a year ago in this space, I reflected on the fact that I would soon be learning to drive (again). In summer 2013 my son was a few weeks away from turning 16, and getting his learner’s licence, which would mean that for the next 12 months he would need an adult driving with him anytime he got behind the wheel. That adult has often turned out to be me; and while I anticipated that I’d be re-learning a lot of rules of the road that are often  more honoured in the breach than in the observance (as Shakespeare had it, although I don’t think he was talking about motorists), what I failed to anticipate was that a 16-year-old who’s got his learner’s licence is a 16-year-old who’s happy to take any excuse to drive.

In the past, trips with him to Kamloops have been something of a blur as I battled traffic while heading from point A back to point A again, with stops at B, C, D, and E along the way. Recent trips to the big city have, in contrast, been lovely, as I now get to sit back and enjoy the scenery (gosh, it really is a beautiful view along Kamloops Lake at Savona, isn’t it?), while not having to worry at all about traffic downtown. And I’ve long since stopped having to reach for the imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side of the car.

Even mundane local jaunts have become more enjoyable. In the past, I would have been able to convince my son to come with me down to Irly Bird to pick up cat litter (those forty pound bags weigh—well, forty pounds, and I’m not getting any younger), but that was about it. These days the conversation is more apt to go like this:

Me: “I need to pick up some more cat litter at Irly Bird. Want to drive?”

Him: “Sure! Do you need to go anywhere else?”

Me: “Well, we could do with popping in to Safety Mart for milk. . . .”

Him: “Great! And after that?”

Me: (hesitantly) “I was thinking of driving out Walhachin way to get some pictures. . . .”

Him: “Okay! I’ll go start the car!”

The only downside is that my son is 6’5”, and adjusts the driver’s seat accordingly, so when I get in to drive I find myself more or less in the trunk, feet flailing helplessly for pedals that are in another time zone until I manage to move the seat. It is, I tell myself, a small price to pay for the privilege of having a personal driver. It’s a shame it will (probably) come to an end in September, when he gets his N and is able to drive on his own. Never mind; I’m sure I can plan a lot of trips between now and then.

Barbara Roden

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