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Taking a teen for a test drive is not relaxing


I took our 15-year-old daughter for a test drive some two decades ago. It took weeks to recover from several seconds of terror.

It wasn’t a test drive in one sense because we were not testing a new car. It was a test drive to determine if Kayla would be able to drive a car at all. I wanted her to be ready when she obtained a learner’s permit.

Having driven her around most of Northeast Arkansas and the Memphis area, I couldn’t wait until she learned to drive. I obtained a book for her to study for the written test. A good student, the written test would be a snap for her.

When you’ve played the Morgan Freeman role to Kayla’s Miss Daisy, you pray for success.

She passed the written test. Next came practicing driving behind the wheel, or what I called the “Adventures in Dad, Don’t Say Anything.”

I found a large and empty parking lot, with emphasis on “large” and “empty.” A friend of Kayla’s suggested that Mr. Magoo could drive in this parking lot. She did well.

When the day arrived for her driving test, it was hot. She told the license examiner she was going to leave the building early, start the car she was driving for the test and make sure the vehicle was cool for the test drive. It paid off.

Several years later, the mother of a youth in my church group asked if I could take him for his driving test. Rick’s father died when he was very young and his mother operated a successful retail store that was always busy on Saturdays, the day of the test.

I anticipated no problems since Rick, currently the editor of a daily Arkansas newspaper, was very bright. I assumed the written test would be simple for him, but he failed on the first attempt.

We went back the following Saturday. He failed it a second time. Then he failed a third time. The civilian Arkansas State Police examiner took him aside and told him she would give him a copy of the test he could take the following week, but not to let the other teenagers know.

On the way to Rick’s home he told me about the test he had been furnished. Then he unfolded the papers and found the test was in Vietnamese. The examiner gave him an old test that had been used for Vietnamese refugees years earlier.

Rick was motivated and passed the test in English on the fourth attempt.

Now I am facing a third time with a candidate for a learner’s permit.

Before granddaughter Madison can get her learner’s permit, she has to take a test to determine whether she knows enough about driving to be allowed to learn how to drive.

I got her a copy of the license manual, but she informed me there was an app for that on her iPhone.

She also reminded me my pickup truck was “old, clunky and ugly” and she didn’t want to be seen in public in the truck. I later told my wife what Madison had said. “Did you ever think that she might have been describing you?” she asked.

Too bad there isn’t a learner’s permit test for Congress. I wonder how many times senators and representatives would have to take their learner’s permit test.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.