You see, in Iowa that’s when kids get their driver's permits. That’s also when many parents have their first heart attacks.
Back in Illinois, I had to wait until I was 15 for my permit. Then I took the mandated Driver’s Ed course as part of my academic curriculum, learning to drive with the (insert high school sport here) coach at my side during the day and my trying-to-act-calm-but-ready-to-crap-in-his-pants father at night. After I completed the course and hit 16, I got my license. ‘Nuff said.
From there I went through life foolishly thinking every place did things the same way. I didn’t realize that in Washington, D.C. you couldn’t get your full license until you were 21 (though now that I’ve driven there, I completely understand) or that Wyoming let’s kids get their learner’s permit at the ripe old age of 12 years and 9 months. And both places are so close alphabetically!
Lucky for me, my oldest wasn’t hot to drive. When she hit fourteen, she didn’t beg me for a permit. I didn’t push the subject. When she hit 15, though, I thought she should really start practicing. She agreed, took the written test and got her permit.
We decided to enroll her in Driver’s Ed this summer. It’s not part of the school curriculum -- which means high school coaches have to teach less important subjects like math and social studies -- and she didn’t want her taking the class to conflict with any activities during the school year. Before her class started, I had her drive around a little bit. You know, learn the basics. I didn’t want her to start without any skills. Well…
I got a call from her instructor after her first time out on the road. It went a little like this:
INSTRUCTOR: Your daughter doesn’t really know how to drive yet.
ME: I know. That’s why she’s in Driver’s Ed, right?
INSTRUCTOR: Um, that’s not really how we do things in Iowa. Kids usually know how to drive before they take Driver’s Ed.
ME: But you have those special cars with the double pedals/steering wheel combo. I don’t. I’d kind of like to see my next birthday….
INSTRUCTOR: I understand. Tell you what, from now on I’ll take her out when there isn’t any traffic. Have her meet me at the school at 6 a.m., blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.
Sorry, once he said '6 a.m.' I kind of tuned out. I’m happy to report, though, that she passed the course, although she will have to take a driver’s test at the DMV before she gets her license. (Like she didn’t have to before? What the frick?)
Like I said, I love Iowa. It’s a great place to live. I'm just too scared to drive around here anymore.