A chauffeur may have been easier and cheaper

“Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, for example, a parent ages as much as twenty years.”

—Henny Youngman, c. 1960s

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“I’ll be glad when Chance gets his driver’s license.” It was a simple statement from Chance’s mom, Light and Champion bookkeeper and office manager, Karol Gray.

Karol’s thoughts were seemingly centered somewhat on convenience, not having to play chauffeur. My memories of that time in my kid’s lives were thinking a chauffeur may have been easier and cheaper.

Daughter Robin was the first to earn her license. She never saw it coming when I told her taking the family car to school meant she took her younger brother with her. “No,” I said. “I am not taking Lee to school. He can ride with you, or I can take both of you. Then I watched as my Jeep Cherokee disappeared out of sight down the driveway from our hilltop home in Pipe Creek.

I also watched a few minutes later as Lee came walking up the same driveway. Even before he reached the house, I knew the news couldn’t be good.

“Robin drove the car into the ditch,” he reported. Seems she missed one of the several turns required to navigate her way to the main highway into Bandera. A tow strap and my pickup remedied the situation, and no one was late for school.

The first-day ditch experience excepted, Robin was a good driver. But a navigator? Mmm …  not so much.

“Are you sure you know the way,” I asked as I watched her and Lee load Bug, Robin’s white-and-brown terrier, for the trip to Tyler. Lee appeared resigned to the trip. Bug was a different story. The pup was reluctant to even get in the car for Robin’s first cross-country solo, a journey that would cover about 300 miles and require about five hours. Dogs can sense danger.

“I’ll follow you into Boerne,” I said. “Then you go 46 to New Braunfels ….”

“I know, Dad,” was my daughter’s reassuring reply. “I know how to get there.” This is probably a good time to mention that cell phones and GPS devices were still over the edge of history’s horizon.

We “good-byed” one last time on the convenience store parking lot in Boerne. I added, “Be careful and let me know when you arrive.” As Robin drove off the parking lot, my uneasiness was exceeded only by the dog’s apprehension. She was looking out the back window of the car with eyes that pleaded for help.

Robin pulled confidently out of the parking lot with a wave, turned left, and they were off. That would have been fine except for one thing. She was supposed to have turned right. And I was still watching when she came back by heading in the other direction. She waved once more as she passed by. Bug was still looking out the back window.

As darkness settled in, I was feeling some concern when the phone rang. “She’s finally there,” I thought.

“How was the trip,” I asked. “Will you accept charges for a collect call?” the operator replied.

“It’s going well,” Robin said. “I was supposed to turn on 291 … right?”

“No,” I replied. “On I-35 at New Braunfels. Where are you now?”

“I don’t know. Let me ask the lady here at the store.” Pause. “She says I am in Johnson City.”

So many questions begging for answers, but none worthy of frustrating a new teenage driver late at night and lost. I let it go with, “So how’s your dog making the trip?”

With new and improved directions, we said “goodbye” once more. Finally, they reached their destination, albeit a few hours later than originally planned. A couple of years later, when Lee was putting a brand-new driver’s license in his pocket, Robin had become a pro at the South Texas to East Texas journey. Bug even went willingly.

Maybe it was his experience riding shotgun with his sister. Still, if Lee was ever directionally challenged, I didn’t know it. His first driving experiences were of a different variety. Things like the tree along the side of the driveway that mysteriously moved into his path and the time his pickup started making left turns only, and he had no idea what happened to the front wheels.

You know, now that I think about it, I don’t remember Bug ever getting in a vehicle with Lee to begin with.

—Leon Aldridge

. . . . . . . . . . .

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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