While flipping through the TV stations with my digital converter box remote control last night, I saw an old episode of “Two and a Half Men” where Charlie Sheen’s character is letting the half-man drive his car.
Then I knew I had to turn off the TV and write this column.
Is there any greater fear than learning how to drive?
Riding a bike?
Removing your training wheels?
Your first kiss?
First day without a diaper?
For me, it was the moment that I had to take my first driver’s test.
Sixteen years old. Columbus, Ohio.
I could barely see over the gigantic steering wheel of the 1953 Chevy, three on a tree.
For you under-40 kids, a standard transmission with a floor clutch and a gear shift, up around your nose, on a column by the steering wheel.
I remember the space between the dashboard and the front window was bigger than two TV trays side-by- side.
If I had that Chevy today, I would mount that huge space with an old red rotary phone and pretend to use it in the ferry line.
Back to that driver’s test.
Not only did I have to experience a bad-breathed Ohio Highway Patrolman as my tester (not that mine was Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit), but I had to parallel-park a car that seemed the size of a war canoe.
I do not remember my final score. I just remember that Mom drove me to the test because Dad’s doctor had recommended that he not be anywhere near me or the testing sight.
Dad had tried to teach me to drive just the one time.
We were in his company car at the church parking lot.
It was a Sunday night, which is like a Monday day when your favorite restaurant is closed.
No one was in the parking lot but us.
Dad started me out with short, straight distances. His company car was an automatic, so I only had to reach one pedal.
I think it was called the accelerator, although I was only going three miles an hour at the time.
Dad seemed nervous.
I believe I could have used another layer of clothing.
When Dad allowed me to slowly turn right or left, my brow began to bead up, but not as beady as Dad’s stare at the church parking lot pavement.
Upon reflection, I would give myself a C+ for fear and a D- for turning.
When we got home, Dad told Mom that from now on she would be teaching me how to drive — in her 1953 Chevy with the three on a tree.
I never did ask Dad whether he put more money in the church offering plate that next Sunday.
Presbyterian guilt for using our church parking lot after services?
I know that many years later when I was helping teach other parents’ kids how to drive, I tried to use church parking lots for the test runs.
It made me more comfortable to be near hymnals.
Of course, when I took others’ kids out to drive, I never worried like Dad did that day with me.
I made sure those kids drove their parents’ cars, not mine.
Thanks for the lesson, Dad.