Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Driver's Ed Car

Taking a three hour road-trip recently in our little 17-year-old Subaru caused a bit of reflection on my part. The flash backs started within minutes of home, when I pulled over to the post office to drop off some mail. That car...that post office...that lone utility pole...and a 15 year old permit-driver...

"You need to pull into the post office, so I can mail this," I remember saying, long before we'd actually reached the post office.
"Ok...go slowly now...slow down...stop...STOP!" and then the ominous "thud" as we struck the utility pole, very squarely and solidly.
"What part of 'stop' didn't you understand?!" I assume were the words that came out of my mouth...although now, five years later, all I can do is laugh as I think back on the memory. She felt terrible, I felt terribly nervous, and the car probably just shrugged and thought, "Oh well, what's one more little ding?" (After all, this was the third girl in the family to use this as the driver's ed car.)

And THAT reminded me...
2004, and daughter #1 was now licensed. She drove herself all over the place, to Columbia often and to Harrisburg every day for school. But then there was the morning that she pulled out in front of someone. That was the end of the front "bumper" on the driver's ed car. Actually, we all know that cars today don't really have "bumpers" - they have these fiberglass things that crack and break and shatter. She, nor her parents, could afford the repair job - and since the accident was her fault and we only carried liability insurance on the old car - duct tape became her auto body repair technique. She drove that car around for nearly a year with duct tape holding the front of it together. But then one day when leaving school, she stopped and the young guy behind her didn' now the rear "bumper" was dinged, along with the back hatch. But this time it wasn't her fault - so we got an insurance check. A check that was big enough to cover the repairs on the front and rear bumpers...and we just left the ding in the hatch.

I'll never forget the words of the guy at the auto body place, when we told him we wanted the front and rear bumpers of our little driver's ed car replaced. He laughed and said, "Are you sure you don't want me to just fasten railroad ties on the front and back instead?" We thought it was funny at the moment. After the utility pole at the post office...we realized our auto body guy was a prophetic genius.  Next time we'll probably listen to him. After all, the little car only has 240,000 miles on it, has only had one hole welded up on the engine block so far...and still has three more children to get through the Kohl family driver's ed program.

PS - This little car has provided fun writing material more than once. (And did I mention that the car occasionally murders wildlife? That is quite traumatic for new drivers, in a funny sort of way, and makes for some interesting stories.)