If all goes as planned, by the time you read these words, I will be within a few hours of quitting my job.
I don’t mean I’m quitting my “paying work,” as a freelance direct-mail copywriter for non-profit organizations.
And I don’t mean I’m over my “passion,” which is my charitable work with NewThing.net in the former Soviet Union.
Of course I don’t mean I’ll stop posting my snarky blogs at ComplicatedEnglish.com, where I whine about other people’s grammar, syntax, and punctuation.
And I certainly don’t mean I’m through with Outsidah.com; how could I cease offering witty commentary on life in small-town New England from the standpoint of a newcomer — when I’ve been doing it for nearly a decade, and with a minimum of hate mail in response?
No, I’m talking about a job I’ve held three times in my life, one for each kid.
I’m talking about Teen Taxi Driver.
If God smiles on me, next Thursday, I’m done.
Our third and final child, Lydia Charlotte, is scheduled to take her driving test with Triad Driving School in Georgetown, and I’m praying they taught her well. I wouldn’t know, personally, because over the course of all those hours of behind-the-wheel training that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires for a teen to get a license, Lydia Charlotte’s mother was in the passenger seat. I was cowering, eyes clamped shut, in the back seat.
Not that Lydia Charlotte is a bad driver. I hear from Mom that our daughter is actually quite competent. She did the whole 30 required hours of live classroom instruction, the whole 12 hours driving in the company of a certified instructor, and 6 hours observing another student driver from the back seat. (Geez! Massachusetts! Legislate much? Don’t you realize the kid in the back seat is spending those 6 hours on Snapchat?) I also attended the requisite 2-hour “content of driver education” class as Lydia Charlotte’s “parent or guardian.” (I’m definitely her parent; look how identical our scowls are.)
So please don’t misinterpret my quivering blindly in the back seat. This isn’t a matter of the driver’s skills. This is a matter of the passenger’s nerves. Seeing an automobile as a “death machine,” as I do, I have a really hard time letting anyone else drive, other than me. I’m not so delusional as to think I’m a better driver than everyone else on the road; it’s just that if I’m going to die a tragic accidental death, I prefer the person delivering the eulogy to say, “It’s almost ironic that he went this way, after a lifetime of fearing automobiles.” As opposed to having no choice but to say, “He might still be here with us today, if he had just trusted his paranoia, if he just hadn’t climbed into that passenger seat.” In any moment of crisis, give me a steering wheel to grasp. For me, a false sense of control beats actual lack of control any old day.
But I digress.
I enjoy my children. During my cumulative 4.72 million hours as Teen Taxi Driver, I’ve found them to be mostly pleasant driving companions. I’ve been Teen Taxi Driver first for Natalie, then for Kristofer, and now for Lydia Charlotte. But soon — maybe tomorrow, even, depending on how early in the day you read this — I won’t be Teen Taxi Driver, ever again.
There will be no more “I need to go to Julian’s for our project; it’s due tomorrow.”
No more “Can you take me to Mae’s party? Everyone’s going to be there except me.”
No more “Dad, wake up; your alarm didn’t go off; we have to leave NOW.” That’s the worst. Driving down Linebrook Road in my pajamas. Embarrassing.
I’m about to be free. I’m feeling almost giddy. Once I’m free, nothing can un-free me. My wife is 60. No matter how hard we try, we can’t make another teenage driver.
And what with college tuition looming, we’re too broke to adopt, so don’t even think about that.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he only pulls his car out of the garage when it’s absolutely necessary. Follow him by clicking “Follow” here at Outsidah.com.