Behind the Wheel
A little before 5 pm yesterday afternoon my son drove down our street.
That is big news. At least it's big news for me. I'm assuming it was a big deal for him. It was his first behind the wheel lesson. My son is old enough to drive? My son is old enough to drive. (Or at least get a permit.)
The road to this moment was not smooth. When is any road smooth?
He took Driver’s Ed in school last fall. That was similar to what I had done and my mother before me. One quarter of the year dedicated to learning the rules and then taking a test at the end. He did so so in class. I pushed him to take practice test after practice test before the actual test. You have to get at least an 80 to pass and he was borderline. So I kept after him. He got annoyed. (I easily annoy my son.) Thankfully, when the test was administered, he passed and that was that. (So we didn't have the pain of having to attend another session of testing...In my humble opinion there is too much testing going on, but that would be another post for another day.)
So he had a piece of paper that said he passed his written exam, but he was still too young to get a permit. Here in NJ you have to be 16 to get a permit and then you can get your license when you are 17. (That is if you can get an appointment for a road test with the MVC...another nightmare scenario that I hear about.)
Back in my day (eons ago) behind the wheel testing was done (I believe for free) after school. They (whoever they were) told you when it was your turn to show up. Then you and a couple of other kids (I can remember 2 or 3 of us), got in a car with one of the driver ed teachers and drove around. I don't remember if there was a required amount of hours you had to do (today it is a minimum of 6), but I drove around with a bunch of different kids. I even blew a tire and was taught how to change it by the teacher. (Something I don't remember well...thank goodness for AAA.) The teacher gave you a piece of paper and you went to DMV (because that's what it was then...now it's MVC) and got a permit. Eventually you got to take a road test (which was done on a closed course...or at least it was for me) and got your license.
I got my driver's license a LONG time ago, but there are a few things that I do remember. One was that prior to September of the year that I took my test, parallel parking was not a required part of the test. I took my test in mid-September. I stunk at parallel parking...I STILL do. (I will avoid it at all costs...I seriously have parallel park-aphobia.) I'm not sure if I passed it on the road test or not. (If I recall correctly you could get one thing wrong and still pass. This might have been it.) I know I did it. I think I did it poorly. I can also remember that I took the test in my parent's station wagon and that the man who tested me was quite heavy and I was afraid to ask him to put on his seat belt because I thought it might not fit.
I did manage to pass on the first go, but I knew plenty of kids who didn't. There's no shame in that. I'm telling my son that when the time comes.
My son's experience is a little different than mine in that the behind the wheel is no longer offered at school. You need to find a driving school. That's not too difficult. The Driver’s Ed teacher also works for a local driving school, so...Right before his birthday in August I got to work.
The challenge came when getting all the paperwork for the course. We had a passport. I filled out the forms. I paid on line for the class. I wrote a check for the permit. Then I went to make a copy of his social security card and I couldn't find it. My son didn't know where it was either. We searched the house high and low...nothing...well nothing but panic. We KNEW the number, we just didn't have the card and that was a problem.
My husband took over and called social security and found out what we needed to get a new one. THANKFULLY he got someone on the phone who told him exactly what he needed to do and exactly how to fill everything out so that there would be no hiccups in the process. (I don't know who this person on the phone was, but bless you whoever you are.) The worst part of the whole process was that due to Covid-19 you can't go the social security office. You have to mail in your forms.
I think you all know how I feel about the postal service. I was a wreck. We sent in all the paperwork and his passport via certified mail and we knew it got there. I was seriously praying every day about this. A couple of weeks later we got a certified envelope back. I was jubilant...until I realized that they were just returning the passport (I know I should be grateful for that) and a note that they were processing.
A few weeks later we got another envelope. I was elated (even though it wasn't certified). It was a letter saying that his social security card would be on its way shortly and if we didn't get it in 2 weeks to call. We were making progress. And I do have to say that the social security office seemed to be on the ball.
Then on Monday, September 13th the mailman delivered the envelope we were waiting for. Yes, I let out a big sigh of relief. Then I got on the phone to the driving school and got an appointment to bring in the paperwork and get a vision test.
Now here we are. My son will be having his second lesson today. A permit will be in the immediate future. (Well at least before 2021 ends.) And then...
Deep breath. God willing, in the fall of 2022 he will get his driver's license. A scary thing for sure. A nerve wracking time certainly. But to be honest, at least for now, I'm less stressed about him and more stressed about the cost of car insurance. Not only will he be a teen driver, but a MALE teen driver is enough to at least triple my current cost. That's giving me nightmares! Forget the cost of college (well maybe not), I'm going to have to start saving my pennies for insurance.
But I'm putting the cart before the horse, or so they say. For now, watch out NJ locals...he's on the road!!