Drivers Education, as Per Grandma

By HELEN FADINI | Jun 06, 2018

Our oldest granddaughter started driving this year, and it’s probably one of the most traumatic times in any parents’ and grandparents’ lives. Believe me, it’s not a matter of qualifications, considering the time she spent in driver’s education classes and time spent on the road (we used to call it “Behind the Wheel”). She is definitely more qualified than I was when I hit the road.

Today’s teen drivers have different challenges, such as texting, loud music and keeping their eyes and minds on the road. With my many years of experience driving, I wondered what words of wisdom I could give her, what helpful advice. Katie knows the rules better than I, so the only thing I could volunteer was the advice every mother gave her daughter back in 1958.

“Now, Katie,” I warned, “what I’m about to tell you is very important, so listen up. Before you get in the car, be sure to always look in the back seat.”

With her million-dollar smile, Katie humored me and, shaking her long blond hair, answered in a playful voice, “Of course, Nonna, if you say so, but what should I be looking for in the back of the car? What could possibly be there now that wasn’t there an hour ago?”

Annoyed, I answered, “You kids today don’t know anything. You all think you’re so smart with your smart phones and texting and you still need your grandmothers to tell you not to get in the car unless you check the back seat.”

By now Katie found it impossible to keep a straight face. Trying not to laugh, she asked, “Can you give me a hint of what I should be looking for?”

“The killer!” I screamed. “Don’t you read the papers? Don’t you go to the movies? Picture this. It’s a dark moonless night. The pretty young girl is walking alone down a quiet street. A single streetlight is shining on her car like a spotlight. A lonely cicada chirps as the girl opens the car door …”

Katie interrupted, “I don’t know, and I could be wrong, but I think cicadas chirp during the day.”

“Take my word for it, this cicada is singing his heart out. As I was saying, she walks to her car and opens the door. At this point the audience is on the edge of their seats because they know the killer is in the back seat. Everybody knows the killer is in the back seat except the girl. She gets to her car, opens the door, she probably has shorts on like you’re wearing now, she sits down, gets comfortable, turns on the radio, revs the engine and just before she pulls out, the killer pops up from the back seat, puts his left hand across her mouth and with his right hand pulls out a knife and presses it to her throat. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s a goner.

“So now you know why I worry. Please promise you’ll always look in the back seat before you get in the car. Humor me.”

Katie gave me a big squeeze and whispered in my ear, “I promise, if that will make you happy, but my mom said the first rule is to always lock the car.”

“As I was saying before, you kids today are so smart. Why didn’t I think of that when I was your age?”

Helen Fadini lives in Washington Township, N.J., and Beach Haven.   


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