Monday, December 29, 2003

Driving Miss Upsy-Daisy

Christmas day the Aardvark family made the trip from Fort Worth to Richardson (North Dallas) to have lunch with Mrs. Aardvark's brother and his family. It takes about an hour to drive the thirty plus miles and being Christmas, I figured traffic would be lighter than usual, so why not give the Eldest Aardvark Child some necessary freeway driving experience (she STILL doesn't have her license, but that's another story). My Mother-in-law was staying with us, and therefore would be riding with us, so all parties involved were consulted before the final green light was given.

Much excitement mixed with a little nervousness (in just the right amount, from my point of view) from the EAC about getting to drive. Got everybody loaded in the car and off we go. No problems getting on the freeway and changing freeways and changing freeways again and yet again. Traffic was considerably lighter than usual and most of the idiots chose Christmas to stay home and inflict themselves on their families for a change.

Then it was time to get off of LBJ (635) on to the Dallas North Tollway. This is a clover-leaf exit with a very short acceleration lane to get on to what is usually a very busy freeway. I get nervous making this interchange. Talked her through it before hand and told her I would help her checking traffic so she could pay more attention to what was going on in front of her. What should happen just as she needs to merge? Ambulance approaching with sirens and lights. Ok, got that navigated successfully, but the EAC is a little shaken. Much soothing and positive reinforcement and in no time she's good again. Just in time to exit and pay the toll.

"You're going to need the far right hand lane when you pay the toll because you're going to need to exit immediately afterwards." I tell her. We get to the widening for the toll plaza and she steers the car straight for the last bit of curb. My "You're going to hit the curb" was still hanging in the air as she hit the curb. Just a glancing blow, but all her newly found confidence has now been left some yards back on the curb. Right next to the black marks from my sidewalls.

Now the toll plaza, we had prepared for: Seventy-five cents for the toll, neatly packaged in three shiny quarters, safely ensconced in an opening in the driver's side door, ready for easy deployment. So the EAC pulls up to the toll booth, rolls down her window, picks up the quarters and flings them out the window with sort of an underhanded flick of the wrist. Bravo! Well done! Only one small problem.

Quarters required for the toll: 3.

Quarters entering the toll collection receptacle: 0.

Her three quarters are now lying somewhere on the pavement in the general vicinity of the toll booth. A fact to which, I am not yet hip.

"What do I do now?" says the EAC, somewhat excitedly.

"Did it register your toll?" I ask.

"No."

"Well, how much does it show?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"No. They all missed. Should I get out and get them?"

There is a long (at least it seemed like an eternity at the time) pause during which I am trying to process the fact that the EAC has managed to whiff the toll receptacle at point-blank range. To save the day, Mrs. Aardvark pipes up from the back seat, "Just open the change drawer and get more quarters out." Which the EAC does, tossing one quarter at a time into the receptacle until the magical number of three is attained.

The total time at the toll booth probably didn't take more than forty-five seconds, but it seemed like ten minutes. Needless to say the EAC's nerves were shot. Fortunately, it is a short distance from the Dallas North Tollway to my brother-in-law's house.

When I decided to teach the EAC to drive, I never figured that working on her throwing arm would need to be in the curriculum.

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