Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.



My son recently passed his driving test on his second try. The first try, a few weeks prior, had ended in a failing mark from a tester who, in my son’s telling, was the sort of person to keep you half-submerged in a tiger cage for months while he jabs you with sharp sticks and threatens you with piranhas. On this second attempt, he was glad to get someone different.

We were on a long evening walk with our dogs, each of us pensively awaiting a crouch from one of them with a cautionary plastic dogshit bag at the ready, so discussing his driving test made for a good talk. “What was this one like?” I asked.

“Oh, this one was really nice.”

I was starting to glean that, in his view, the percentage of pass-fail was somehow related to the relative niceness of the person scoring the test. I should note here that I had been riding along with my son for a month or two as a passenger while he practiced driving and that I was impressed with his watchfulness and his care to do things right. I didn’t want to tell him about my own experiences as a driver at his age, or the teenage friend of the time, a girl, who breathed a sigh of relief after another near-miss and called me “Mario,” after race-car driver Mario Andretti. (Unlike Mario Andretti, I was never in a car crash back then. So there.) In fact, reliving my own hellbent driving ways of my early years only made me more vigilant about his habits. Even if I didn’t tell him why.

Which reveals one of the things you gain as you gain years: perspective.

He went on. “She would tell me in advance where we were going to turn — the other guy didn’t do that. And she’d give me little tips.”

Ah. An actual teacher. I can always recognize one. “How old was she?” I asked, suddenly lit up by the realization that this second testing official was a woman. Part of me now flashed onto the old Van Halen video “Hot for Teacher.” I think this part never dies in the male brain, and thank God.

“Oh, middle-aged,” he said. Then he added, “Mid-30’s.”

Everyone in my age group I’ve shared that with has burst out laughing.

That was about two weeks ago and since then my son has used one of the family vehicles to drive all over town and into neighboring towns. There are people who’ve been driving in LA for 30 years who still avoid the freeways, but he was on them in a day or two. He’s always been independent, but recently he’s gained even more freedom: His own job, his own business as well, his own bank accounts (yes, plural), his own IRA, his own schedule. He also now has his own insurance bill, via me, to the tune of $157/month, because that’s what adding him to my policy cost. When he gets his own car (soon), it’ll go up further. Welcome to the economy and to early adulthood.

In the meantime, I welcome his perspective on what qualifies as “middle-aged.” He’s wrong, but that’s just because he’s never defined it, and I hadn’t defined it for him. Well, now I have.

“Middle-aged” is five years older than I am.

And always will be so.

4 Responses to “Perspective”

  1. Paul Says:

    I still swear you drive like a reincarnated New York City taxi driver.

    I remember riding the itch you near the Hollywood Bowl and the flat bed of a truck swinging over the hood of your Toyota Celica.

  2. Lee Wochner Says:

    You’re still alive aren’t you? And we arrived on time, no? Such ingratitude, nursed along for decades. Tragic.

  3. Joe Stafford Says:

    Congratulations to young Mr. Wochner. Please convey the following message from the middle of the 20th century: Happy Motoring.

  4. Dan Says:

    The nasty driving tester you described reminded me of some of the Civil Service people I worked with: There are those who like to make things work, and those obsessed with their puny power to make things stop.

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