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just out of reach

What is the worst possible thing to happen to a sixteen-year-old boy? A dropped touchdown pass? A test he hasn't studied for? Nope. An embarrassing accident in front of a pretty girl? Better. But my son Ed is in an even worse situation than that.

He has wanted to drive ever since he watched the car chase scene from Bullitt, back when he was about ten. I can't wait until I'm old enough to drive, he has said, almost daily, every since. He counted down to his sixteenth birthday, and took his written test the very next day. He signed up for driving lessons the day after that. And for the last six months he has been practicing hard with anyone who will get in a car with him: me, his mom, the driving instructor, his grandparents, other people's grandparents ... After all that practice he is -- I don't mean to sound like a proud papa here -- a real good driver. When we are out together I relax in the front passenger seat, and fiddle with the radio, and think long deep thoughts about love and death and art and rice pudding (with or without raisins? it's a tough question), and generally forget about Ed. I have no doubt at all that he will pass his test on the first try.

But he can't take the test. That's his nightmare. The driving testers are on strike. Talk about tantalizing. Ed can see his driving licence, but it is just out of his reach. (That's Tantalus himself over there, if you were wondering.) Ed is all dressed up for the prom, and his date is in the bathroom throwing up. He is standing on the high diving board, and they are draining the pool. He is ... well, you get the picture.

As a parent on the receiving end of Ed's more or less constant sighing (How'd it go at school today? Ohhhhh, Dad, I had to take the bus again. How was the new Megan Fox movie? Ohhhhhh, Dad, we walked to the theater), I want to know what the folks at the ministry are doing about the problem. Where are the replacement driving testers? Where are the scabs, willing to test for less money? When will it all end?

And should rice pudding have raisins or not?


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