When the kids started driving, I was always worried they would wreck my car either by crashing into another innocent driver or by creating carnage on the interior as they rode about town slurping Slurpies and eating double decker tacos. Today, the roles were reversed. Since my back and hip have been being a pain in the butt, literally, I have been reluctant to drive our manual transmission Jeep. Knowing this has been a problem for me lately, Jess offered to let me drive her car to the store. Not the car that Dave and I bought her when she went away to college but the car she paid for out of her own hard-earned money. I got in the car with all the confidence of a woman who has been driving for the last 32 years. I drove out the driveway and turned left onto Main Street. I got about a block down the street when I realized — this was Jess’ car.
Jess had intended to sell her “college” car when she graduated. She had her eye on a Ford Fusion and was saving earnestly for its purchase. Unfortunately, four months before graduation, Jess had an accident on the interstate totaling her “college” car. I gave her the insurance check when it came in and she added her own money so that she could buy this car. To my delight, she had been listening to me all these years. I’ve drilled into my kids’ heads the mantra, “if you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it.” Jess had worked hard for this car. She had done without so many things that the average college student had or did so that she could save this money.
Suddenly my quick little trip to the store became a nerve racking experience. The truth is, I work out of my home and I live one block from a grocery store. I frankly don’t drive all that often. It is a very uncommon occurrence for me to go anywhere by myself. Now that all my kids are grown, if they are with me, they drive. If I go with Dave, he drives. I know this sounds weird to some of you, but I spent 18 years of my life basically living in the car, driving this kid here, that kid there. Once all the kids had their driver’s licenses, I was more than happy to hang up my key ring.
So down the road I went toward Publix. Two hands on the wheel at ten and two, checking the rear view mirror every three seconds and driving exactly one mile an hour under the posted speed limit. I made sure that when coming up on an intersection, I slowed down even if the light was green to make sure some other fool wasn’t texting while running into the side of Jess’ car. After two nail biting left hand turns, I safely entered the Publix parking lot. Now the real dilemma began, where to park. I never really thought much about parking my own car. I generally drive a Suburban so parking involves picking a space that you can swing the land barge into and making sure you park in a place that you can back out of without having to do the classic 50 point turn. Parking Jess’ pride and joy involved way more factors than I had ever thought about. Don’t park next to another car because an insensitive driver that doesn’t understand the preciousness of this car could carelessly swing their door into the side of Jess’ car. Don’t park too close to the cart return in case some insensitive shopper just pushes the cart the last few feet allowing it to careen out of control directly into Jess’ pride and joy. Don’t park too far out in the parking lot so that would-be car thieves would feel they had found this lovely car technically unattended and therefore fair game for their nefarious acts.
Finally, I decided to park two spaces away from the cart return leaving one space on the other side of the car for good measure. I was pleasantly rewarded when I came out of the store. No one had stolen or maimed Jess’ car in my absence. I made my return trip to the house with extreme caution and released a huge sigh of relief as I pulled into the pea gravel and shut off the engine. Next time, I think I’ll just take the Jeep.