Riding in cars with teens

Christmas shopping for your teenager can be problematic, especially when she wants only one gift, and that gift juaqst happens to be considerably more gasoline intensive than a sweater.

First up on the agenda for my precious little doodad, as soon as she clicked it on over from sour 15 to sweet 16 was, of course, the procurement of the driver’s license. Naturally, she passed the test on her first try. Like all teens, she was hungry. She wanted it. She wanted it bad. She got it. Once that hurdle of bureaucracy was cleared, the stage was set for the natural follow-up, namely the coy Christmas campaign for the little box under the tree that has a key in it, which in turn is followed by the hot-footed dash to the driveway, where sits the (daughter’s choice) 2005 Mustang convertible or (Dad’s choice) the 1986 Toyota Corolla with 187,000 original owner miles, new tranny, new radiator and newly rebolted seat belts.

The other shrewd twist that’s been well planned out by the kid is the fairly airtight, catch-22 approach to justifying a car for her. It goes something like this: “See Dad, I, like, need a job to help pay for, you know, gas and insurance, but there’s, like, no way I can walk or take the bus to work because that’s gonna be, you know, like, just very impractical. So what I need right off, you know, is, like, a car, because that way, I can then get the job and then start, like, paying you back for the insurance. See?”

Amazingly enough, I do, indeed, see.

And yes, the insurance. This is a nasty piece of business, and the phone call from parents who need to insure a new teen driver usually proves to be an irresistible invitation for any insurance agent to become as merciful as Tex Watson on a three-day bender. Let’s put it this way: I’m not expecting daughter’s annual premium to be anywhere close to three digits. However, I am truly hopeful that, considering she is eligible for a good-student discount (whatta racket!), I’ll be able to stay well below that troublesome five-digit threshold.

Some things for any new driver to remember:

(1) Master the art of changing the CD while not actually looking at the CD player but at the road. This skill, sooner or later, will save your life.

(2) If you’re gonna get hit by something, make sure it’s not an SUV, like a GMC Gargoyle, a Mercury Moneyguzzler or a Dodge Dickhead.

(3) When the officer asks you how many drinks you’ve had, never, ever, ever say “two” or “a couple.” Say “zero” and hope for the best.

(4) Resist the urge to flip off other drivers. It’s crazy out there. When an angry driver gets in your face, simply give a big laugh and a full wave featuring all five fingers. For some reason, this is more satisfyingly infuriating to them than your standard bird.