Double whammy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 18, 2004

Well here we go again. Another member of the Jenkins household, my son, Josh, is coming of age and trying now for a driving permit… motorists beware!

Actually, Josh is possibly the best driver of the bunch – excluding me of course.

My wife, Teresa, and I went through the nervous years with our twin daughters, Shannon and Melissa, a few years back.

I’ve ridden a many a mile with knees tight together and my hand clinched to the little handle conveniently placed at the top of the passenger door, and my lips numb from doing my best to keep my mouth shut as the two of them first got started driving.

As a matter-of-fact, I still ride like that sometimes when they’re driving. It’s got to be from habit, I’m sure the real fear is gone… wouldn’t you think?

Nevertheless, it’s now Josh’s turn to hit the highway with mom and dad as… well, for lack of a better term, passenger dummies.

Josh should be a good driver. He’s been driving something with wheels, whether it be two wheels or four, since he was about two years old.

When the boy was just a toddler, still wearing his diapers, he fell in love with a riding lawn mower. Every time I cut grass, he would wait patiently for me to let him sit on my knee and ride him around the yard.

When he was about three, we took a plastic toy microwave that this sisters had practically destroyed, and rigged up a little seat – including a makeshift seatbelt. This put him in perfect reach of the steering wheel and for the next two summers, he actually drove me around as we cut the grass each week.

Even at the age of three, he would concentrate heavily on what he was doing. He was more concerned on making one streak parallel to the next than he was in joy riding. Of course, once we actually finished cutting grass, he wanted to ride all over the yard with no real purpose of direction.

And as the years went by, Josh continued to excel with vehicles of all types and sizes and his love for the mechanics of each of them grew and grew.

By the time he was old enough to sit on a box, reach the peddles and see over the steering wheel, he began driving an old five-speed diesel of mine in the fields and deserted dirt paths around home.

Now with all this said, let’s just pray he remembers all he’s learned over the years.

I remember so well when I got my learner’s permit. Like Josh, I spent many years learning to drive on the farm and getting behind just about anything with a steering wheel became a piece of cake.

At the age of 10, my dad and his brother decided it would be fun to let me to drive an old 1955 Chevrolet across an empty cow pasture. I was just tall enough that if I sat on the very edge of the seat and used the steering wheel to pull myself forward, I could reach the brake and accelerator and still see over the dashboard.

With my dad in the front, my uncle in the back, we started cruising across the open field. My dad, jokingly, told me to give it a little gas and we got on up to about 30 miles per hour. He then told me to slow down a little as we were coming to a large canal. Being pretty excited about driving at this rate of speed in a real automobile, I forgot I needed to change pedals.

Each time my dad said slow down, I mashed harder on the accelerator. At first it was funny because the two of them were laughing. Then, like a light switch being flipped, the laughter stopped, my dad turned completely pale and my uncle hit the floorboard in the back.

That’s basically the last thing I remember before we went airborne over the canal, landing nicely on the other side… well, the front axle landed nicely on the other side.

I’ve never forgotten that little experience and I suppose it has made me an even more cautious driver. It didn’t make me a smarter person, however. The day I got my license, I took my mother back to Woodland and decided to go joy riding on my own for the afternoon.

Looking for any excuse to go anywhere, my mom told me to take the truck to my dad’s place of work and let him check the oil… like I said, any excuse.

On my way – which you have to understand is only six miles down the road – I stopped for a soda pop and took a couple of laps around the block to see if I could find any of my friends. About an hour later, I was finally approaching my destination when I realized the drink bottle was rolling around on the passenger side floorboard.

Knowing my father did not allow trash – especially bottles – left in his vehicles, I reached over, rolled the window down and threw – with all my might – the bottle out of the truck.

I thought it odd, first of all, the sound the bottle made going out the window, but the amount of quarter-inch chunks of glass that filled the dashboard, the seat and my lap was even more strange.

Looking to my right, I was amazed to see this huge hole right in the middle of the passenger door window.

It was the end of December, the outside temperature was in the mid-70s and the truck had no air conditioning. Therefore, as I stared in complete wonder at the thousands of pieces of greenish colored glass in the floor, it dawned on me that my window had been down just prior to me reaching over and cranking the handle…

I’m actually looking forward to riding around with Josh as the driver. Of course I looked forward to riding around with Shannon and Melissa when they got their learner’s permit, but after about the third time of doing so, they practically refused to drive with me in the car.

It was something about the constant &uot;correcting&uot; them of everything they did or some lame excuse, but they chose their mother over me when it came to driving. I’m convinced it’s because they just got away with everything when she was with them.

My mother, bless her pea-picking little heart, nearly beat a dent in the passenger side dashboard and nearly pushed a hole through the floorboard when I was driving with a learner’s permit.

We’d be two miles behind the nearest car and she’s be pounding on the dashboard, and trying her best to slow the car down with her right foot.

I don’t know how many imaginary brakes we went through before I got my driver’s license, but I know she wore several of them slam out.

I’ll try to do my best with Josh behind the wheel. But it’s the rest of you I’m concerned about. I mean, between him learning to drive and my ability to tear cars to pieces, you’ve got a double whammy coming at you… please drive with caution.