John Winters

Eldest takes the wheel

I consider myself, for the most part, a fairly calm person. By that I mean there’s not a lot that fazes me. Twenty-six years in the news business means I’ve pretty much seen the worst and the best in people.

Right now, I’m freaking out.

Eldest SON has gotten his driving permit. Not the full-blown version, but rather the “intro” one that requires an adult to be sitting next to him. That adult is the one who constantly hits the phantom brake on the passenger side, who constantly says slow down, who constantly says “watch out for (fill in the blank),” who is constantly putting his hands over his eyes, who keeps checking his heart rate.

That adult would be me.

Root canal? Upside down roller coaster? Open heart surgery with eyes wide open? Bring it on. But not this.

I am considered a pretty good instructor. Years ago, while living in Alaska, we got a little sports car with a standard transmission. Only problem was the Little Black Dress had never driven a standard. I can fix that.

Or so I thought. Our first adventure with the clutch did not go quite as planned. I was, shall we say, a little on edge, but nothing a glass of wine couldn’t fix.

So our next trip I’m a little calmer and we are doing alright, sort of. I keep having to say “put in the clutch, put in the clutch, put in the clutch.” But I’m saying it in a sort of stutter because the car is jumping up and down — like trying to talk when someone is shaking you.

And I’m trying to mop up all the wine that’s spilling all over me. But The Dress is a fast learner, and soon was looking quite sexy zipping around town in our little sports car. And she drove it here. That is, until I totaled it running into the back of a Coweta County Sheriff’s Office investigator’s car. But that’s another story.

To his credit, Eldest is actually quite adept behind the wheel. I guess years of driving boats and golf carts and waverunners helps. He is 15 years old and he is fearless. And that’s what I fear.

Over my career, I’ve covered more car accidents than I can count. More upsetting, I’ve covered way too many fatalities, many here in Coweta.

And now Eldest is controlling several hundred pounds of steel (okay, plastic in this day and age). And it freaks me out. So I keep reminding him of those fatalities, to always know what’s in front of him and behind him. To know there’s a blind spot and he has to turn to see, to always use his signals, to always stop at the stop sign and then move forward, to watch his speed, the curve, that car …

And I realize I sound like my dad when he was teaching me. And now I am teaching my son. The circle is complete.

One day soon, he will come up to me and ask for the keys. I look forward to that day. I dread that day. It’s another step toward adulthood. Because one day in the not too far distant future, he will take his own keys, in his own car, wave and drive off into the sunset to seek his fame and fortune.

I hope that somewhere is close by.

(John A. Winters is general manager of The Newnan Times-Herald. Follow his adventures at justflipthedog.com. You can reach him at john@newnan.com)



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