My El Capitan, “Actually”


By Jack Edwards

I belong to a pot-bellied demographic that doesn’t need to seek out thrills to satisfy my desire for excitement. I don’t need to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan free handed, run with the angry bulls or skydive from the edge of space to feel the rush of adrenaline. You see, I’m teaching my 15-year-old to drive. My daughter Emma has a “strong sense of self” and pretty much declared after her first lesson that she was good to go. Unfortunately, as much as I dread clinging to the passenger seat and praying for just one more day of precious life, I had to insist on additional lessons to fine-tune a few essential skills. Little things, like not ramming into stationary objects. My work continues, and the status of my situation can best be described using a term you hear a lot  at the US War College: fluid.
Things got off to a rocky start. At the beginning of Emma’s first lesson, she hopped in and began situating herself – not by positioning the mirrors, but rather the stereo. I, still clinging to the hope that I might survive the experience, flipped the stereo back off, only to be met with the type of reaction you might expect after zapping someone with an electronic cattle prod. Emma, with the type of energy only a high school sophomore can radiate, quickly and excitedly explained that the stereo helps her concentrate and, “actually” would help her drive safer (or more precisely, “Music helps me concentrate, actually.”) This is the same logic she uses when she studies, but because my life is not in immediate peril of slamming into an oncoming semi in those circumstances, I acquiesce. Here, no can do.
Timing is still an issue. One minute we are sitting at a stop sign waiting for a vehicle that has the right-of-way bearing down at a distance of three miles away – a speck on the horizon, really – enough time for us to finish our lesson and put the car back in the garage before it arrives. Sea creatures have crawled up on the shore and evolved legs in less time than she sometimes declares the road clear to turn. However, don’t let this apparent sense of over caution fool you, because the next minute she’ll see a light turn from green to yellow one town over and she punches the gas to try to make the signal – only to be deterred by my high-pitched shriek of terror.
The biggest mystery is her parking technique. My daughter has proven extremely consistent in her parking. She manages to turn into the spot and put her right tires directly onto the right divider line. Not occasionally. Every time. She’s 100%. Like a pirate lacking depth perception because of his eye patch. She has what I call Pirate Parking.
One thing I have to give her credit for is her ability to adapt to the changing environment. Case-in-point, and I don’t know why, I routinely tell her to turn right, when I mean left and vice versa. Not only does she know what I mean, which as I have said is the opposite of what I’ve told her, she usually just ignores my mistake. But when she does correct me, she does so politely, at least for a high-schooler, “It’s right, actually.”
Side note: If you are a person of faith, desiring to lead a diehard atheist to a belief in God, try letting them take your daughter on a driving lesson. They’ll be applying for seminary by the time they pull back into your driveway.
Well, I gotta go. It’s time for another lesson – actually.