Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Driving Miss Daughter

I was born and raised in the greatest show on Earth ... New York, New York. The city so nice they named it twice. In New York, there are myriad ways to get from point A to point B. You can walk, hail a taxi, take a crosstown bus or jump on the subway. Traveling by car is not high on anyone's list. The traffic, the gridlock, the exorbitant parking fees (the exorbitant parking tickets).

New York is many things to many people, but it just ain't a driving town.

Consequently, most people in the Big Apple don't own cars. And, most NYC high schoolers miss out on the rites of passage of their peers in suburban and rural areas. Sweet sixteens come and go without learner's permits or driver's ed.

This boggles my husband's mind. To this day, one of his favorite things to tease me about (and to tell anyone within hearing) is that I didn't get a driver's license until I was 28. But, even at that ripe old age, I beat several of my hometown friends.

In my book, driving was, is and will always be a necessary evil.

So, imagine my surprise when I realized that "Driver" is one of the many jobs I've picked up over the years. Please note: I say, "Driver" and not "Chauffeur." I am not paid, I am not treated with respect. I do not get a cool little bachelor pad over the garage or a spiffy uniform. There's no soundproof glass between me and my passengers. Oh, how I sometimes wish there were!

The passengers are typically my tween daughter and one or more of her cohorts. Destinations vary. I might be driving to and from school because of weather, to a movie, to a party, to the Y, to the mall. Most of the time, I'm driving to and from the stable where my daughter rides. When I was her age, I was very comfortable coming and going via New York's public transportation system. I was independent. Living where we live, my daughter unfortunately is not. She needs me if she is going to go anywhere.

You would think this would make her want to stay on my good side, wouldn't you? Ha ha.

When she was younger, my daughter and I used to enjoy car rides together. Or, at least I did and she hadn't realized how uncool I was yet, so she did too. She'd fill me in on the latest grammar school gossip. We'd stop for popcorn at an old honky-tonk arcade in the next town over. We'd play Broadway show albums and sing along at high volume and less than accurate pitch.

These days, my daughter is otherwise engaged. She is either otherwise engaged with her iPhone or otherwise engaged with her friends. And, while I used to take advantage of car time to talk with her, I've realized that the quickest way for a tween's mom to shut down a tween conversation is to attempt to participate. So, now I just keep my mouth shut and drive. Sometimes they forget I'm there and I actually overhear interesting tidbits about who said what, who did what, or who likes who. I have to be careful though ... one well-meaning question and they clam up, fast.

They do occasionally acknowledge my presence though, and I guess I should be thankful for that. Let's see ... they often ask me to turn up the volume on the radio if there's a song they like. Or to stop at McDonald's for an Oreo McFlurry. See? I'm not completely invisible.

Sometimes, when I'm waiting at a red light or sitting at a train crossing, I find myself asking, like David Byrne of the Talking Heads, "How did I get here?" Have the girls in the backseat seen my impressive resumé? Do they know that I graduated from an excellent university, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa? Do they realize that I actually had a fairly interesting life before they were born?

Do they understand that I was just like them once — thirteen years old and the center of the universe?

At at no point did I ever think, "When I grow up, I hope I can spend all of my limited discretionary time driving my daughter and her friends and a carload of smelly horse tack back and forth to a distant stable with Taylor Swift's insipid (and literarily inaccurate) 'Romeo and Juliet' on the radio."

But, can I tell you the funny thing about it. For the past several weeks, my work schedule has been significantly busier than my husband's. So, he kindly volunteered to take over the stable route on Tuesday afternoons. The strategy worked. I've met some tight deadlines; I've had more time to work with my team; my clients are all happy.

Next week, my husband has a meeting in town and won't be back in time. So, I'll have to wrap up everything at my agency early and get a whole day's worth of work delivered by 2:30 or so. I'll have to load all the stinky tack in the trunk, collect my daughter and her fellow equestriennes, drive 40 minutes north to the riding center, wait in the car for 90 minutes, then drive 40 minutes back.

Y'know what? I'm kinda looking forward to it.

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