Today (Friday) marks the one-week anniversary of a very important grown-up event: last week I sponsored Teymour during his road test. Now, this may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but I promise you it is. Remember when you, unless you’re Liz, a sixteen year old, scared and anxious to pass your driving exam. For those of you who aren’t Massachusetts I should explain a little. Here we require an adult, at least 21, and who has had his license for at least three years (or so), to sponsor the newbie, to loan a car, insurance, and license while a usually gruff state trooper monitors from the passenger seat. Last Friday, I was such a sponsor for Teymour.
His appoint was at 4pm exactly, though I somehow misunderstand him and thought it wasn’t until 4:30pm. I picked him up from the T at 2pm to practice driving. It had been a good five or six years since I drove the course, but since it was sufficiently short, I remembered it pretty well. Go out from the parking lot, take your first, legal right — this was almost a trick direction, as the immediate right is a one-way in the opposite direction — pull over, back up in a straight line, make a three-point turn, and head back to the RMV. Simple. Thankfully, I never had to back up in a straight line nor did I have to parallel park. Had either been required I’m sure I would’ve failed. My driving instructor, Mr. Lantini, had arranged a signal to guide me through the complications of parallel parking during the test, but, due to its illegality, I was all the more terrified by the possibility.
Luckily Teymour wouldn’t have to face such trials. Unfortunately, he drove over the curb during the initial practice run. Two hours later, however, he was ready to go. We were almost late. Remember I had misunderstood his appointment time. We raced back, as fast as an overly cautious, novice driver can go, really. It was only 4:03pm when we arrived.
The statie was nice — she was a jovial, round, black woman. While I normally don’t, this time I’m willing to draw on stereotypes. She was gregarious, sweet, and unassuming. She was sympathetic to Teymour. He’s old at 21, after all. Even as a foreigner — Teymour is from Paris, France, and holds both a French and Canadian passport — by American standards he was an American driving old maid. She told us that after work she doesn’t leave her house, or, if she does, she makes her husband drive: people are just too crazy to brave the road, she told us.
Teymour acted suprised whenever she gave her orders. He was almost genuinely confused when she asked him to stop and back up. I remained silent and disinterested. If the sponsor is caught coaching, the road test is automatically forfeited; nobody wanted that.
The cop looked at Teymour’s permit. “You came all the way down here from Cambridge” she asked.
“Yep,” Teymour responded. I had warned him not to sound too much of a dandy, but he just can’t help himself. Even a single word gave him away.
“Why’s that? It’s an awful long way.” To avert an awkward pause, and to make sure that he didn’t say, “Because I heard it was easy here,” I broke in.
“Oh, I live in Avon,” which is a neighboring town. You’ve got to go where the car is, the statie agreed. She continued. Eventually Teymour admitted that he isn’t an American citizen. Why was he here, then? School, of course. Oh, he went to Harvard. Gosh, that’s impressive. I can’t tell you how much I wish he hadn’t mentioned that. When I was in Scotland with Alli and DJ, we scorned DJ when he got drunk and told as many people as he could find that we went to Harvard. Everyone expects more, be it money or otherwise, even if we don’t have it.
She asked, “You must have a lot of student loans, then, right?” He didn’t. “So are you rich or something?”
There it was, that horrible, pained, extended silence.
Again, I sighed, smiled, and spoke, “I have plenty of student loans.” To be fair, I’m sure I do. I haven’t yet received any paperwork to confirm the amount of my loans, but I’m sure they’re substantial. Anyway, this was enough to appease the cop. She offered her hand. I gave her a flat high-five, to which she responded, “That’s the American way!” She left her hand out. Not to leave her hanging, I repeated the gesture. We were all in good spirits again.
“Take a left at this light.” We were almost back in at the RMV. Things were going well. Teymour turned into the parking lot. We were done. He was done. He had passed. I let him drive me back to Cambridge on the highway. I had to take the wheel from him three times to avert an accident. We made it, though, safely.
It’s hard to explain the sort of father-son relationship a road test can engender. I’m very flattered to have had the opportunity. The license hasn’t come in the mail yet, and I certainly will never let Teymour drive my car again.