My Son Is Driving A Car: The Occasional Operator

Posted on December 5, 2012 by


May I borrow the car?

The RMV on a Monday afternoon, after lunch and before the logical bewitching hour of right after people get off work, was INSANE. Busy, hot, snaked with long lines, boarded by uncomfortable benches and watched over by a digital red number machine, lighting up with each new person served.

My son was number 215, his ticket said to expect a 30-minute wait.

After the wait, he left with a temporary license, his real laminated one, will arrive in the mail, his picture smack dab in the middle of a blue square.

He was legal to drive, except for the small issue of insurance. He wasn’t insured on my car. Why? Because adding a teenager to one’s insurance policy is expensive and the ability to take our family car for a spin, didn’t rate as a necessary privilege in my book. But my kid, he’s a good kid. He was bummed, but he didn’t act like a jerk or whine or beg, he accepted the decision was sadness and disappointment; a lethal combination to a coddling mother. I watched him fold his license into his wallet and knew then what I had to do.

I called my insurance agent, Sharon. Sharon’s desk is lined with photographs of her dark haired children, who keep me company while paying various insurance policies. But this time, I was not at her desk. I was doing business over the phone without the pictures of her children to distract me. FYI, I prefer the distracted version, as I do in most endeavors.

Sharon found Gabe in the registry (because she’s linked into the RMV, same as the trooper who pulls you over and then goes back to the cruiser to ‘run your plates’), she added his name, his birth-date and license number and walla, he’d become an occasional driver on my policy.  I felt like supermom, but only for a second. The next thing I felt was panic, a burst of sweat followed by teeth chattering chill. I wanted to take back the insurance, take back the keys and take back the years that passed to make my son old enough to be an occasional operator.

And the next, next thing was, he went out, as in backed the car out of the driveway and honked as he drove past the front porch where the dog and I watched, all proud and a little weepy.  The next, next, next thing was when he brought the car back and parked against the lilac bush, in a show of spacial economy theretofore unseen.

In other words, we were making a smooth transition until I learned about the Junior Operators License or JOL. (I  was tipped off by a sibling whose is still in the sibling doghouse and probably will be forever). For  the first six months of having a driver’s license, those under 18 in the state of Massachusetts have a Junior Operator’s License or JOL. With the JOL, a driver is 1. Not allowed to ferry individuals younger than 18 (other than siblings) 2. Drive after midnight.

This JOL thingy presented Gabe with a moral dilemma. I had no moral dilemma. I had a law.  Gabe resisted, pointing out that nobody, nobody follows the portion of the JOL law about driving people under 18 around. He said the rides he and his sister had taken with friends–if the JOL rule had been followed–would never have been offered otherwise.

So? What was his point? I asked my kid if he though the rules didn’t apply to him? He thought they did, but not when they weren’t followed by anyone else (classic teenage dodge, BTW). I asked about the Brooklyn Bridge and if everyone else was jumping, would he? Needless to say, I was not compelling. He didn’t shake his head to clarify the legal lines that had become fuzzy and say, “Mom, you saved me! I almost lost my way and followed the mob instead of the law!”

Nope, he cited all the reasons the law is silly and thus, not adhered to by anyone. We bickered and snipped. I waggled a finger and shook my head in displeasure. I recited the operation rules of the car, again. I emphasized suspension of allowance, by me, should any of the terms be violated. I was exhausted. I wished that Sharon hadn’t answered her phone.

I will not really, really be able to monitor who is in the car and for all the other factors I’ve reviewed, ad nauseum with my kid. Sure, in hindsight, should something go terribly wrong but then, it’s too late.

My sister laughed when I told her the rules I’d created and the laws of the JOL.  She said, You can’t control for all that!  She reminded me of how we’d driven on snowy, slippery roads in Vermont, unbuckled and unhinged.

She suggested I get some sleep. She suggested I choose to fight a battle I’d have a better chance of winning. She suggested I have a little faith (okay she doesn’t use that word, I do), read a book, call a friend, do something other than try to hold back time.