Being a passenger takes some learning too

I should have realized it from the package the woman at B.C. Services handed my just-turned 16-year-old daughter.

I should have realized it from the package the woman at B.C. Services handed my just-turned 16-year-old daughter.

The package came after she passed the written portion of her driving test. There were the standard manuals and guides and two of the magnetic “L” signs we’re supposed to affix to the rear of the vehicle when she’s driving.

“People often lose one or one gets stolen, so we give you two,” explained the lady behind the counter. “If you need another one just come in and pick one up.”

What I soon realized is that both “L” signs should be used every time out – on one side for the new and nervous driver and one on the other side for the old and equally-nervous parent/passenger.

I don’t profess to be an expert on parenting, not by a long shot. However, I’ve handled pretty much everything thrown my way so far.

From diapers to dresses, I sailed through the days of her falling off the bicycle and bedtime tantrums. I handled reasonably well the move from pre-teen to teenage years. I made it through the transition from elementary to high school. So I figured I was already on the downhill side of child rearing and ready to coast into the college years.

Not so apparently.

Everyone warns parents-to-be about the Terrible Twos, the first days of school and the teenage years with all the boyfriends, girlfriends and drama in between.

But nobody ever mentions the driving years.

Those first steps of independence since the day we let go of the bicycle and they coasted off on their own. Now, however, I’m strapped in the seat next to her.

For so many years I was looking out the windshield with my hands on the steering wheel and my feet controlling the start and stop. But I’m not in control anymore and that takes some adjusting.

I’ve been the passenger stomping on the floorboard hoping, like Fred Flintstone, I could bring the car to a stop by digging my heels into the ground.

I have my head out the window watching for so many obstacles that I probably look like one of those happy dogs going for a car ride.

Let me clarify, my daughter is not a bad driver by any stretch of the imagination, she’s still learning. I just have a longer way to go before I’m a good passenger.

I’ve been riding a motorcycle for almost 30 years and as any rider will tell you, you have to be aware of every car on the road when you’re on a bike.

If I had a little more gumption I would have preferred she earn her motorcycle license first. I truly believe it makes you a better and safer driver. There will always be the idiots who want to drive their bikes too fast and dart in and out of traffic like they’re invincible. That segment of the bike population will always exist unfortunately. But with a few years and miles under them, the riders are the ones most prepared for what’s happening on the road before it happens.

And that’s been my undoing as a passenger when my daughter is behind the wheel. Even though she’s does a great job of being aware of her surroundings, my head sometimes looks like it’s on a swivel.

Like riding a motorcycle, I feel every intersection is going to have some driver cruising through not watching. Or there’s a driver eager to get where he’s going without thinking about any other vehicles on the road.

That awareness has saved me from a few collisions with oblivious car operators.

I’m feeling the same way now as a passenger but without the control.

I see people unaware that the “L” on the back of the car means a driver who is learning. They tailgate, whip by us, make abrupt lane changes, don’t signal and run yellow lights – all the things that I’m preaching to my daughter not to do, we’re watching right in front or behind us.

I try telling her driving in B.C. is different than anywhere else in Canada. Patience isn’t only a virtue; it can save a bundle on car insurance not to mention a few precious lives.

The roads are winding, the corners sharp and the hills steep, which means if you speed up you’ll eventually have to apply your brakes. There are passing lanes every few miles so no sense putting all the other drivers at risk because you can’t stand being behind a car. Just wait a few miles and you’ll get the opportunity in a safe circumstance. And everyone will have a much more enjoyable drive.

Those are lessons that can’t be taught in a book but have to be experienced.

Those are lessons, just like being a passenger or a parent, that take years to understand and appreciate.

I guess, in retrospect, that “L” sign actually sticks with us forever.