White Knuckles

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: Thomas H. Fletcher, CFP®


There are major milestones in one’s life worth noting. In my case it’s things like marriage, the birth of my son, getting my first job, turning 21, 30, 40, 50, 60... etc. My son recently turned 16. That’s an important milestone for both of us because: 1) it makes me feel old as hell and 2) he now has a learner’s permit to drive.

I respect the fact that when you learn to drive you’ve got to begin somewhere. What better place to start than with your parents as teachers in the car with you? But I also have to confess that when I’m not operating a car, sometimes I’m not the calmest passenger. It’s always been that way with me for some reason. It gets incrementally worse though when I’m aware the operator of the automobile, and I’ve got to be careful what I say here, really doesn’t know how to drive! Whoops, I think I was a little blunt there. I’m now that poor father in the passenger seat pumping the imaginary brake pedal barking out orders to use blinkers, look both ways before heading into an intersection, watch out for that light pole and don’t drive so fast. I’m pretty certain that I do drive him bonkers, but to his credit, other than occasionally muttering for me to shut up, he pretty much keeps it to himself. And he’s becoming a better driver right before my eyes.

When you’re 100 years old like I am and have been driving your entire adult life, you forget how many things you take for granted. One very important consideration for us was where should he drive the car? Other than on a road (duh!). We live in the city. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to send your child in a SUV out on Boston’s Storrow Drive with a bunch of aggressive city drivers tailgating, speeding and not using their turn signals. So we need to search for a tranquil destination before heading out. We’ve found that office parks are excellent on Sundays because they’re abandoned stretches of asphalt where you can practice most driving maneuvers. The further from the city, the better.

Because of this driving stuff, I’ve been advised by she who must not be named to become a better example when I’m behind the wheel. That’s harder than I realized. You know that 10 and 2 hand position? I mostly drive at 6, but sometimes 4 and 8 on a good day. If everyone else is driving 55 mph in a 40 zone, to slow down to the speed limit is agonizing. And that occasional stop sign in the neighborhood where I would just gently tap the brakes, then proceed? That’s a tough habit to break. So the good news I guess is we are both becoming better and safer drivers. I’m looking forward to that day when I can recline in my seat, close my eyes and ask my son to wake me up when we’re there. I think that may be a little ways off in the future though.