I am honored to have my daughter, Jade Th’ng as a guest blogger. My baby girl is now 23, she is finishing up her degree from LSU, waitressing, picking up behind-the-scenes production work on commercials/videos/films, making jewelry, writing, traveling, making music and living her life. I am very proud of her. She tells a story that I have thought to write about, but this story is better from her perspective.
ALONG WITH THE MAJORITY OF 15-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN YOUTHS, I only had one thing on my mind: driving. Well, boys too, but mostly driving. I had a romanticized idea of what it would be like to receive my license. I would see all of my friends everyday, decide when I saw my parents, and take impromptu road trips whenever I pleased. This, of course, was nothing like what the reality turned out to be, but young Jade didn’t know that yet.
Only one small thing stood in my way: driver’s ed. This was no huge deal to me because I was taking the class with my buddies: Kelly, Laura, and Anna. I wasn’t intimidated by something that everyone in America is required to do, I mean, it seemed that the success rate is pretty freakin’ high. I knew I was a good student, and I did an awesome job driving in circles (for five minutes that one time) in an abandoned Kmart parking lot with my mom. I was ready to make driver’s ed my bitch.
The class was uneventful, predictable even. I only fell asleep five times (and only fell over in my seat once).
One thing I will never understand is how the American Driving Academy handled lunchtime. It was completely unsupervised, and the 35-or-so teenagers were allowed to go anywhere that they could walk to. I must note that the building was located on the extremely busy, four-lane Siegen Lane, which was not exactly pedestrian friendly. In hindsight it was extremely dangerous, but guess that the American Driving Academy was so loaded on insurance that they just didn’t give a fuck. I don’t know, it makes no sense to me, someone could get kidnapped.
My buddies and I decided to take a trip down to Blockbuster because we decided the was just had to have some candy (a decision I still stand by). On our return journey to the ADA, giggling like the fifteen-year-old girls that we were, cars flew by us as we walked up the road. Suddenly, Laura screams, I hear a man’s voice, and see arms reaching out of a truck. We all scream and run (for a short time, but once we were out of immediate danger, we returned focus to our candy). We had literally almost been kidnapped. I’m not sure why that didn’t scare us more now that I’m looking back on it.
I PASSED THE CLASS WITH HONORS (that’s how I’m choosing to remember it). Now it was time for the driving portion of the course. Mr. Shoemaker, a nice, boisterous, soon-to-be-retired man was my driving instructor. He picked me up at my house for day one of driving lessons in a sexy, tan Ford Focus. He explained how he divided up his three days of instruction: day one was country driving, day two was city driving, and day three was highways and interstates. So we set out to the country, driving down Greenwell Springs Road.
There was not much to see and not many people around, which is good because, as it turns out, five minutes in an empty Kmart parking lot does not make you an experienced driver (which was a surprise to me). One thing that I found exceptionally hard on that first day (but have since mastered) was watching the road while also checking the speedometer. I don’t know why this was so hard, but the second my eyes went to the speedometer, I just could not stay on the road. It’s not as bad is it sounds, just a little bit outside the the line. I was getting better minute by minute, I swear.
I even survived the frustrated eighteen wheeler that tailed me for a few minutes before passing me. Did I mention that it had teeth with fangs on the front of it? It was scary as hell, but I emerged a stronger person. I think maybe I got too comfortable after overcoming that terrifying ordeal.
About an hour into the lesson, that pesky speedometer-eyes-on-the-road thing happened. No biggie. Except, I guess this time it seemed a little worse to Mr. Shoemaker because he reached over to help me get back on the road. One little thing, though. I also turned the wheel to get back in the lane. Our combined steering wheel turning caused the poor Ford Focus to overcorrect.
Suddenly, we were flying across the next lane and all control was lost. We rattled around until we landed upside down in a ditch on the opposite side of the street. Unfortunately, Greenwell Springs Road has no shoulder to aid reckless driver’s ed students. Fortunately, it had rained the day before, so the earth was soft, and our flip into the ditch was as gentle as a flip into a ditch can be.
It took me a few moments to register what had truly happened. I was hanging by my seatbelt, staring at a cracked windshield that had grass peeking through it. My purse was on the roof of the car by my head.
I don’t know why I felt the pressure to be the first one to break the silence, but I said a line that I believe will forever make me qualified to be a sitcom star: I guess this means I don’t pass. Cue audience laughter. Then, cue my tears.
Now with me uncontrollably crying, he instructed me to unbuckle my seatbelt and crawl out the back door (which was less crunched than the front).
An officer arrived promptly, no one was hurt, and we managed to calm down. Although Mr. Shoemaker kept pacing and saying things like: “Thirty years teaching and I’ve never once been in a wreck”, “I can’t believe this happened”, “I’m about to retire, how could this happen to me?” I didn’t say anything, but come on. Rude.
After a couple months of mental recovery, I retook the driving portion. (Mr. Shoemaker insisted on being my instructor again. God knows why.) I passed obviously. I swear I am a GREAT driver (I knocked on wood as I wrote that). Turns out that they now use my story as an urban lengendesque teaching technique, and apparently my story has reached all corners of the country. I don’t know if people believe it or not, but trust me, it’s true.
A Mom’s Perspective: You can trust her, it is all true. My sweet baby girl flipped and totaled the Driver’s Ed car her first hour behind the wheel. It was the best worst accident she could have, no one was hurt, it didn’t go on her record, everything was covered by the Driver’s Ed insurance, and it made her a better driver because she knows how quickly a bad accident can happen. And Jade’s story is so unbelievable, she’s considered an urban legend. Maybe I should rename this story, “my daughter…the legend.”
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