I drove like a Sunday driver—careful to obey all the signs and never press the gas pedal more than five miles over the posted limit. For years, my friends and family listened to my claims of outstanding driving skills. But my teenage daughter endured it the most. Since the day she first held her driver’s permit in her hand, I made sure she knew her mom had an unblemished driving record and I expected her to start one of her own.
When it came time to teach her to drive, I volunteered since I wanted her to drive safely and live to see a hundred. Forget her father—he racked up speeding tickets faster than he did calories from his bowls of ice cream. “I can’t believe you’ve never been pulled over, Mom. Everyone gets caught sometime in their life.” Shelly thrust the car in gear and maneuvered onto the road while I sat next to her pointing out everything she did right and everything she did wrong. I knew my approach would work like it did when my mother taught me.
One day when I waited for Shelly to return from school, the phone rang. “Mom!” my daughter wailed into the phone. I gripped the phone tighter fearing the worst.
“Shelly, what’s wrong? Are you alright?”
We let her drive our car to school twenty miles away since buses weren’t an option. I worried about her driving abilities at age seventeen, but I couldn’t keep making the roundtrip everyday with the rising cost of gas—let alone her teenage pride.
“I got pulled over for crossing some yellow lines. I’m so sorry!” A garbled explanation followed. After several prompts and promises not to ground her for life, I managed to get the full story. Her first traffic ticket lay in her lap soaked from tears. When she arrived home and fell into my arms, I tried hard not to lecture or laugh, but I did hand her the phone book and told her to schedule her traffic school class.
The following Saturday, my husband and I dropped our shaken daughter off at a local restaurant that offered driving school in their back conference room. Shelly shuffled through the door with an assembly of other lawbreakers. For a fee of $32.00, the state, in return, supplied a chicken or pork dinner, four hours of instruction and a clean driver’s record. Certain she would learn her lesson; I chuckled at the way Florida dealt with traffic offenders.
But the following spring, as I rushed home from a lunch date with her, my thirty- plus years of boasting fell to the road side like a loose boulder. Glancing into the rear view mirror, I confirmed my worst fear—flashing lights and a siren. Groaning, I slumped in my seat wishing I could take back the last ten seconds—and the last thirty years of my bragging—anything to avoid what I knew was coming.
“Where’s the cell phone? I’m calling Dad!” Shelly howled with delight while my cheeks blazed redder than the stop sign I almost ran in my panic to pull over.
If my husband had been driving, I would have applauded the patrolman approaching my five-speed Toyota. Instead, my teenager clapped her hands while I tried hard to calm my pounding chest and find my voice.
“Your license and registration card please.” The officer’s request jarred me into action.
I snatched the cell phone from Shelly’s itching hand. “Listen,” I whispered, “if you promise not to tell your father, I’ll give you twenty bucks.” Call me a criminal … I bribed my own daughter.
I handed over the required documentation and remembered the excuses my friends told about using over the years. Somehow I didn’t think this officer would believe me if I said I needed medication for an asthma attack. Shelly barely controlled her snickers when he placed the two-hundred dollar ticket into my palm.
Before the week ended, the entire world knew I had earned my first speeding ticket … and that I lost two hundred and twenty dollars. It’s been three years since I ate roasted chicken with my fellow offenders but it’s also been three years since my daughter discovered that her mother really is human.