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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Christopherson Column: Driving down memory lane, from the passenger’s seat

  • We were driving out of the Crookston High School parking lot one evening last week. I was behind the wheel, my wife was in the front passenger's seat, and our oldest son sat in the back seat. We had been at his post-season Pirate football banquet at the school and had to leave early so he could get to hockey practice on time.
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  •     We were driving out of the Crookston High School parking lot one evening last week. I was behind the wheel, my wife was in the front passenger's seat, and our oldest son sat in the back seat. We had been at his post-season Pirate football banquet at the school and had to leave early so he could get to hockey practice on time.   
        I navigated the south exit that leads onto Fisher Avenue, activated my right turn signal, slowed down considerably, and noticed that the next car heading west down Fisher Ave. was at least a couple blocks to the east. So I depressed the accelerator in order to make the right turn in our Chevy Avalanche, gave the steering wheel a healthy clockwise crank, and a couple seconds later we were heading toward home.    
        And then, from the darkness of the back seat:   
        "Talk about a rolling stop," the 15 year old and possessor of a driving permit for the past several weeks announced, with sufficient sarcasm. "That was TERRIBLE! Fail!"   
        With that, for approximately the billionth time since I became a parent a decade-and-a-half ago, my mind was taken down memory lane, with one of our kids serving as tour guide on yet another visit to the land of days long ago gone by.   
        Suddenly, the kid wants to tag along everywhere. I'm not going to pretend, and neither his he, that he suddenly can't spend enough time with his dear old mom and dad. We all know he wants to drive as much as possible, and how priceless is that behind-the-wheel experience as he stares down his driving test next year?   
        The destination does not matter. Hugo's. Wal-Mart. Hardware Hank. The Transfer Station. The high school. Crookston Sports Center. Crookston Sports Center. Crookston Sports Center (lots of hockey). This kid wants to go, and on the way to the driveway, he wants the keys. I'd really like to put his driving devotion to the test one of these days by saying we’re going to family Bible devotion at church, or suggesting we bond as a family by picking up litter in a ditch somewhere.   
        So, suddenly, I'm the back-seat driver, although I'm technically perched in the front passenger's seat as I verbalize for our son all the safe driving habits I had to put into practice more than 25 years ago in order to show my instructors that I was a cautious enough driver to be deemed legal by the state to cart myself around.   
    Page 2 of 2 -     He has a turn coming up, and I'm reminding him to signal way earlier than I do in actuality. I'm coaching him to pull way over by the curb as he hugs the corner tight. I'm advising him to not even flirt with the speed limit if he knows what's good for him. He's getting ready to change lanes, and I'm alerting him to the fact that an Avalanche has 2,391 blind spots. I'm imploring him to avoid anything that even remotely resembles the act of "gunning it" in order to proceed across a street in front of cross traffic. (I sort of accelerated rapidly across North Broadway to beat traffic during my behind-the-wheel test and was on the receiving end of a healthy point deduction.)    
        It's serious business to him, which is refreshing. Most other topics, as long as it's a parent doing the talking, are greeted with an "I know" before we even get to the point we're trying to get across, or a sigh, or an eye roll, or slumping shoulders, etc. But driving? He listens to the advice, he puts it into practice, he asks meaningful questions.   
        And, maybe most encouraging of all, he listens to 1940s music to ease his mind while driving.   
        I'm not saying he's no longer downloading absolutely awful noise via iTunes to blast through earbuds or Beatz headphones into his poor, poor ears, because he is, unfortunately. But what I am saying is he apparently wants his mind to go to a certain place when he's driving - at least that's the case when he's required by law to have a licensed adult with him - and he gets to that place by tuning the satellite radio to the "40s on 40" station and listening to music that was made around 30 years before his parents were born.   
        Our satellite radio provider last week ditched, for the holiday season, the “40s on 40” station in favor of a “Holiday Traditions” channel that features traditional Christmas carols. My wife refuses to listen to such blasphemy until Thanksgiving comes and goes on the calendar, so I’m left scrambling from the front passenger’s seat as I try to tune into some soothing sounds while our son mans the driver’s seat.   
        So far, songs by Simon and Garfunkel, America and Carly Simon seem to be doing the trick, with an Eagles tune sprinkled in here and there.
           

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