My mother owes me a session with my hair colorist.

She turned me gray as we drove to Jacksonville, Florida, for Thanksgiving. She insisted on driving the last leg from the Georgia border into Jacksonville, because, she said, “I know the roads better.”

Because it is her car and she’s my mom, I handed her the car keys. As she accelerated slowly — so slowly — into the Interstate 95 traffic, she blithely remarked, “I don’t see too well at night anymore, but I’m sure we’ll be there by then.”


She moved into the left lane and stayed there, going a steady 70 mph in the heavy I-95 traffic. She wondered aloud why all the drivers were zooming up behind her, zipping around and giving her dirty looks.

I had a death grip on the passenger side-door handle and was mashing my foot to the floorboard, pressing on imaginary brakes.Full dark was upon us by the time we entered Jacksonville.

After a swooping exit — the wrong exit — off the highway and a scary re-entry back onto I-95, I had my cell phone out, ready to call 911 if needed.

All of a sudden, I saw a line of stopped cars, their brake lights glowing red. Mom didn’t see them, though, and continued barreling along.

I screamed, “Stop, stop, stop, stop!” and she said in exasperation, “What’s the matter, Karen?” 

With a shaking finger, I pointed forward. She braked sharply. It was a close call, people. After getting off at the correct exit this time, she almost clipped a jaywalker. In her defense, he was wearing very dark clothes, and Mom had the right of way on a major city street. It didn’t do my nerves any good, however.

If I had driven like that as a teen, my parents would have taken the keys away. My driver’s ed class was drudgery, except for the one class when the cop came to tell us in gory detail what would happen if we didn’t wear our seat belts.

“Crispy critters” and “blunt force trauma” were mentioned. Those words flashed through my mind as Mom drove on and on.

There was no behind-the-wheel class in Virginia when I was in high school, so my dad taught me to drive. Dad made the process terrifying with his barked commands.

“Park. Parallel park,” he would say. “Back the car into a parking space. Karen, you drove into a pretend car!”

It did not go well.

When it was my daughter’s turn to earn her license, her dad took her to a parking garage for a practice session. He told her that she could get her driver’s license when she had mastered smooth driving on the ramps in a manual transmission car. She kept popping the clutch and slamming on the brakes.

Who wouldn’t, in a stick shift car in a parking garage? She was so traumatized by his lesson that she voluntarily waited for two years to get her full license. We had an automatic transmission car by then, and the learning went much more smoothly.

I realized during Mom’s thrill ride that my son is eligible to take a driver’s ed class in three years.

Heaven help me. I am going to need more hair dye.

Talk to Karen

Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenLeeGamble.

Read or Share this story: