First of all, you should understand that my mom is not a nervous or easily excitable person.
If I'm stressing-out because friends are coming over and the only thing in the house to eat is moldy cheese and liverwurst, she'll laugh and explain that moldy cheese is better for you as it contains the dairy and penicillin food groups wrapped up in one easy-to-eat snack.
OK, she may not be the greatest at making me feel better at these times, but at least she doesn't get stressed-out, too.
But my mom experiences a transformation not unlike that of Dr. Jekyll's whenever she hears me jangling the car keys and announcing that it's time to pick up the pizza we ordered.
You see, I only have a learner's permit, and she needs to be with me in the car when I get behind the wheel.
I waste 20 minutes persuading her that a seat belt is all she really needs--no football helmets are necessary--before I can get her into the passenger's seat.
I know to start the car with the square key and not the round one, which only opens the doors. I will even swear that I was merely trying to see if the round one would fit in the ignition. Honestly! But to hear my mom talk, you'd think I'd just committed the worst driving sin imaginable.
And I also know that "D" means drive and "R" means reverse. It's just that when somebody--namely my mom--is reciting every known prayer and tugging on her seat belt to test its quality, I get a little flustered.
A screaming match took place as I proceeded down the driveway toward the street, and while I'll spare the gory details, suffice it to say that she hasn't yet followed up on her threat of cutting me out of her will.
My mom is a strong believer in the fact that even though the entire world of cars may be going 70 m.p.h. in a 45-m.p.h. zone, I don't have to. But I don't particularly enjoy being passed by 90-year-old grannies or having others tell me that they are No. 1, even though they're using the wrong finger.
It seems to me that driving 55 m.p.h. in a 35-m.p.h. zone is perfectly safe. As my argument, I use my dad's famous last words--"last" because he uttered them the last time he drove with me before changing the locks on his car's doors.
His advice: "You have more control when you are going fast than when you are going slow."
It can also be pretty embarrassing when you're driving along with your mother on the way to Pizza Hut and you see a truckload of gorgeous guys. My mom has this sense and can immediately tell when I'm planning on showing off a little.
As the speedometer climbs 10 m.p.h., she's mumbling to herself. As it goes up 20 m.p.h., her left foot begins to slam down on an imaginary brake.
One of my mom's favorite sayings while we're on the road is "Look out! There's a stop sign here!" The stop sign is usually a block or so away, but she believes in very advance notice.
The other is not so much a saying, but rather a sound she makes. If I'm not entirely on the right side of the road or some such other minor detail, I hear "SHSHSHSHSH-SHSH-OOO-OOO-OOO." This is actually the noise she makes as she sucks in what she believes to be her last breath and then lets it out again in nervous little grunts.
I know my mom doesn't do any of this to make me feel nervous behind the wheel, and I know I should listen to and follow her advice, but it's often hard to hear what she's saying. Her words of wisdom are usually muffled by her whimpering.
I used to think of my dad as being my more courageous parent, but when it comes to driving with me, he always says, "Go with Mom," so I guess he believes differently.
Well, I've come to the realization that I don't need to drive as far to the right as possible, meaning two inches away from anything on the side of the road. And now my neighbors again feel secure in parking their cars on our street. They've even stopped calling us--to see if I was planning to be on the road any time soon--before leaving anywhere in their cars.
But the biggest honor came when the Neighborhood Watch Committee took me off its "10 Most Wanted" list.
Come mid-March, when I finally take my driver's license exam, we'll find out if all the fussing and fighting has been worth it.
My mom is desperately hoping I'll pass, which means, she says, that she'll never have to be in the same car with me again.