Henry is taking his driving test. I am in the back seat because for some reason they make a parent come along these days, and I lost the coin flip with the lovely yet formidable Marcia.
“Better you than me,” she said. “I’d be so nervous I’d cry.”
I’m not crying but I’m jumpy, to be sure. It’s nerve-wracking to watch your kid take a test or play a game or act in a play or make his argument at a debate.
Because you want so badly for them to do well. Or, at least, to not fail. Because that would be awful. For him and for you. Which is why, at some point during whatever they’re doing, you have to suppress the urge to jump out there and do it with them. It’s why you see parents mouthing words during solos. Or pumping their arms at a race. Or moving invisible chess pieces in time with their kid.
Plus, during driver tests, they don’t let you talk.
They really don’t. I’d forgotten that. You have to sit there in the back seat and say nothing while your baby — this (in my eyes) 5-year-old boy who has no business piloting a two-ton vehicle — takes his precious life and my equally precious SUV out on the road amongst all of you road jerks.
OK, yes, I realize not ALL of you are road jerks. I’m sure a few of you are very nice people, in fact, and possibly even capable drivers.
But when your kid is taking his driving test and you’re in the back seat, on guard, everyone is a road jerk — a potential threat to his life, his limbs, and my insurance rates.
And I can’t warn him about any of you. I can’t say, “Watch out for that jerk waiting to pull out from the Kroger whose nose is sticking into your lane.”
I can’t say “When you merge on the freeway, watch out for jerks who speed up so you don’t get in front of them.”
I can’t say, “You see how that jerk is drifting over the lane line — she’s either drunk or texting. Hang back and let her go.”
I can’t say any of that. I can only sit here silently, listening to my internal dialogue, which sounds like this:
“Ohmygod, why did he back in like that?” “Does he see that guy who’s gonna pull in front of him?”
“The arrow’s green, is he ever gonna go? C’mon, go! Go!”
OK, yes, I probably shouldn’t have had those two cups of coffee before I agreed to this. But, still, this isn’t going well. The tester lady seems to be making a lot of check marks. I don’t think he’s going to pass! This is ridiculous — how’s the kid supposed to drive without my brilliant advice? If only they’d let me talk!
Then, suddenly, the test is over and tester lady says to Henry, “You only got an 8 …”
Eight? See, I knew it. He failed.
“Twenty-five or more is a fail,” she continues. “So you pass. Good job. You’re a very smooth driver.”
I knew it all along.