Thursday, September 11, 2008

Presuming to be a teacher

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:1
As most of you know, I have been waiting anxiously for the day when Allie-15 could drive. My life is one giant carpool line, and I look forward to the day when I can be relieved of some of this burden.

In Texas, a fifteen-year-old can apply for a driving permit after completing six hours of classroom instruction (the remaining 26 hours can be completed concurrently while completing in-car instruction and practice). Since we didn't want to take up Allie's few free evenings or Saturdays with a traditional driver's ed course, we decided to go with a parent-taught course (we are using I Drive Safely's Teen Driver Education). Besides, I'm a good driver, and I would probably be more picky about her driving skills than any old instructor.

Allie whizzed through her portion, we talked through the parent portion, and we set Monday as the day to take the permit test.

Allie was nervous: "What if I don't pass?" Could she bear the embarrassment?

"You can do this," I assured her.

As usual, however, I had underestimated my part in all this (this seems to be a recurring theme in ALL my parenting endeavors). As the parent instructor, the State sent me a mound of paperwork to fill out including instruction logs, affidavits, and verification of enrollment at school. My drivers license number is on every form, assuming responsibility for her driving performance.

I finally got it all together, and planned to pick up Allie a little early from school on Monday after I got an affidavit notarized at the bank. I drove up to The Bank here in Small Town. There was (of course) a truck parallel parked ahead of me, so I pulled up behind it in my Yukon XL.

After making small talk (a requirement for all transactions here), I got the form - the one in which I solemnly swore, under penalty of perjury, that I was a competent driver and was completing an authorized course of driver's education with my daughter - notarized. As I walked out, I got a Dum-Dum for my Company Girl Ruthie-4, and flipped through the mound of papers to find the next form I needed to get signed by the school.

Ruthie was working on her sucker, my mind was on keeping the blowing papers in order for my next stop, and I climbed up into my truck. I'd parked my Very Large and Very Tall vehicle up a little too close to the truck in front of me, so I put it in reverse so I could have enough room to get around it to pull out.


I don't know what was worse: the sound of metal crunching metal, or the feeling of being physically whiplashed out of my state of absentmindedness. Yup, in my haste to get on with becoming my daughter's official driver's ed instructor, I'd failed to complete Driving 101: Check mirrors before putting vehicle in reverse. Not that I would have been able to see that brand-new, teeny little Cadillac, crouching way down there, from On High where I sit driving my beast. But still.

At this point, I am shaking, knowing that every person in Small Town has been watching me. What is she going to do, that city girl? Does she think she can just back into whoever she wants and get away with it? She'll never be able to show her face in this town ever again! The police station was practically across the street. The owner of the Bead Store, whose storefront faces the scene of my crime, had probably already called.

I stumbled out to survey the damage. Fortunately, having a Very Tall Vehicle has its advantages. My bumper is up so high, only the empty hitch holder hit the other car - in the license plate.

Oh, the irony! The shame! The pain! On my way - me, the driving instructor - on the way to take my student to apply for her driving permit!

I suppressed the overwhelming urge to drive away quickly and quietly, and instead, unbuckled Ruthie and walked back into the bank, presuming that the owner of the Caddy was in there. The three tellers were all chatting with an older gentleman, so I asked if he drove a Cadillac. No. But now the three tellers knew of my deed, too. The only other customer at the bank drove a truck, so I was left with no choice. Now that everyone at the bank knew, I swallowed hard, then went ahead and asked for a Post-It note.

If I weren't shaking so badly, I would have taken a picture of the note I left on the Cadillac owner's window:

I accidentally backed into your license plate. I did not see any other damage to your front bumper, but you can call me at ____________ if you have any questions. I am very sorry!

And with that, I jerkily put on my now-sticky Ruthie's seatbelt again, looked in all my mirrors twenty times, and proceeded to pull away from the curb. My heart was still beating furiously all the way to pick up my student driver from the high school.

When I saw Allie, I immediately spilled it all: "I don't know if I'm worthy to be your driving teacher!" I related every awful moment in painful detail. Did all that really happen in just the the last few minutes? She hugged me - a nervous, but maybe a little relieved, hug. "It's going to be okay, Mom." Had she been waiting all along for me to admit how easy it is to make mistakes? It felt good to laugh about it. Allie fully realizes crazy things only seem to happen to MOM.

Things were quiet on the way to the licensing office as she studied her handbook. Then she came to this study question: "What should you do if you damage an unattended vehicle?"

"Did you leave a note?" she flashed.

"Yep." They just don't tell you how humbling it is to stand there and write the note while a Whole Town watches.

But it made me feel better, knowing that - even if Allie didn't pass her exam - hey, at least she would never forget the answer to at least one question!

Note: She did pass, but was too embarrassed to let me take a pic of her outside the Department of Public Safety!


Cassandra said...

Aw..did you eat chocolate after this...cause you SO deserved to eat some chocolate after that kind of stress! Bless you. (((hugs)))

Julie said...

Oh no. How embarrassing. Having grown up in a Small Town portray it very well. : ) Can I share my own embarrassing driving fact? I have backed into a garage 3 times. Once at my parents' house and twice at our current house. With 3 different cars. Yeah. I really need to use those mirrors.

Maureen said...

My heart goes out to you, but with a little chuckle for the irony! You are a great teacher, Allie now knows that even the most experienced drivers make mistakes and how important it is to check those mirrors lol!

Thanks for sharing :)

Michelle@Life with Three said...

One of only two car accidents I ever had happened when I was picking my sister up from her driver's ed class. And, I live in a small town, too. I could totally feel your pain! :)

Enid said...

Oh man...Iam sorry first accident was looking at a garge sale, the day I went to pick up our first son birth announcement 9yrs ago, and hit a BMW. The seocnd one well I will not tell, Iam glad we survived ...

Iam glad your daughter pass and yes you are the best for her!

Becca~CapturingSimpleJoys said...

I had to laugh at your story! The irony of it all! I can so see that happening to me.

mholgate said...

God does have a sense of humor, doesn't He? It's little moments like those that He uses to keep us humble! : )

Thanks for sharing your embarassing moment!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

When I was 17 or so, I backed out of our driveway and smack into the truck that was parked across the street.

The truck was so old and raggedy that I couldn't tell if I smashed it, but the tail light JUST FELL OUT OF THE SOCKET, like it was startled. I picked it up and set it back in its cubby and then looked up and down the street.

The nosy neighbor down the street was RUNNING into her house, so I knew I'd better suck it up and admit my transgression. As I knocked on the door, I could hear the phone ringing - nosy neighbor down the street, no doubt.

All was forgiven, no harm done, except it took the rest of the day for my pulse to stop racing.