FLINT - My 15-year-old daughter Annie is about to get her driving permit, so now is probably a good time to issue a public warning - not about her, about me.
So here goes: "Dear Driving Public, if you happen to be out on the road and see a car with an exceptionally pretty young lady behind the wheel who doesn't look old enough to be piloting a Big Wheel much less a 2-ton missile of death, please be understanding. She has a lot on her mind."
I will admit I'm not the best at being calm, patient and soothing when it comes to supervising my children while they're getting in their required hours behind the wheel.
Their mom is. She methodically talks Annie through each and every step of driving using a quiet even purr, not unlike the OnStar lady.
"OK, we're coming to a stop sign, so tell me what it is that you're going to do. Remember to apply pressure to the brakes slowly and easily There, that's it. You're doing fine. Almost there. Got it. You've arrived at your destination. Goodbye."
Whereas my driving advice tends to be more along the lines of "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!" or "Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, did you even SEE that pedestrian?"
My body language isn't the best either, or so I'm told. With my right hand, I hold onto the handle above the passenger seat like it's grim death. With my left hand I brace myself off the coffee holder between the seats. I also spread my feet as wide apart as possible and jam them into the floorboards. From outside the car I'm told I look like a starfish in a bottle. And apparently this does not send a signal of "I trust you, you're a wonderful driver" to the person behind the wheel.
I also have a bad habit of vigorously and frequently attempting to apply the spare brake pedal that manufacturers should have had the good sense to install as standard equipment in the passenger compartment. (Note to GM engineers: What the hell's the matter with you? Don't you have kids?)
The thing is, with Annie I really don't have to worry. She's an excellent driver. She knows the rules of the road and follows them religiously, including this new thing called a "speed limit," which, frankly,
I wasn't even aware they were talking about. When did that happen?
She even uses her turn signal, which I realize will amuse Michigan drivers, most of whom prefer to keep their intentions secret from other drivers until a turn is two feet away, at which point they spin the wheel violently to the right or left like drunken steamboat captains on a bender.
She's so good, in fact that I firmly believe she'll be one of the best drivers on the road once the year 2047 rolls around.
That's when I figure she'll actually be old enough to drive. And to date. That, of course, annoys Annie no end. I know that because she says, "That annoys me no end." She is her mother's daughter.
She also says to me, "Don't you trust me?"
Of course I do. It's all the other yahoos in the world I don't trust. And by "yahoos," I mean you, the person reading this column.
To you I say, "My daughter, who means the whole world to me, will be on the road soon. Please look out for her."
She'll be the one with the pillows duct-taped all around her car.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979.
For more of his work, visit his blog at the website blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.