Crow’s-Feet Chronicles: Driving Miss Crazy
By Cindy Baker Burnett
Sep 25, 2017
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I have managed to stay alive all these years because (a) I never eat airline food, and (b) I never ride in the car with my grown kids driving it. 

When I was teaching the first of my children to drive, I made a promise to God that if He would let me out of that car safely, I would divest myself of all my credit cards and join Mother Teresa in Calcutta. 

When children reach the age of sixteen, they discover the meaning of life: car keys. Within minutes after they get their driver’s license, they want a car of their own. 

He brings one home for your approval. Parts of the Grand Canyon are only five years older than that car. It’s a convertible winter and summer because the top has tears in it that flap in the wind like a Bedouin tent. The windows do not go up or down. When you go over a bump in the road, one headlight goes on; when you go over a second bump, it goes off again. The seat belt is five inches in circumference and fits no one. The car gets four miles to the gallon and should be owned by someone who could afford it---a sheik in Saudi Arabia. 

Nothing works in the vehicle---except the tape deck. Its volume can be cranked up to ninety-six decibels, covering six traffic lights. When you total up the registration and license fees and insurance, it costs three times more than he paid for the car. 

“I got a Club for it,” he says proudly. “It fits over the steering wheel.” 


“So no one will steal it.” 

“The only way anyone is going to steal this car is to break it down and carry it off in a shopping bag.” 

Their goal in life is to have everything working in the car at the same time. This never happens. 

There is always a knock, a squeak, a rumble, a grinding, or smoke pouring out from some opening in the car. His mechanic is right out of “Deliverance.” He only accepts cash. 

“I thought you were going to take your car to your mechanic this weekend.” 

“I can’t. It’s going to rain.” 

“What does that have to do with anything?” 

“He works on the car in his driveway.” 

Some naïve parents actually believe that when their child gets a car, their lives will be made easier. The child will pick up the cleaning, drop in at the store and pick up a few things, go to the airport for you, drop you off at the beauty shop, or take Grandma to the doctor.

If you believe that, you believe Brad and Angelina Jolie actually get together to share a pizza. You will never see this child again. 

From the moment my first driver rolled his car down the driveway to get it started, I knew our bonding was over. It would be years before he would forgive me for making him the oldest boy in North America who rode a bicycle to school. 

As a former teacher, I could always distinguish the teachers’ cars from the kids’ in the parking lot. The teachers’ cars looked like a graveyard for Volkswagens. The bumper stickers supported the teachers union and had signs that read, BABY ON BOARD. There was a hole where the radios had been and the antennas had been bent double. 

Sometimes I wonder what the animal kingdom must think as they see humans crouched in cars that belch carbon monoxide, stall and sputter, and become such an important part of our lives. And when humans have great distances to travel, they board a large bird and are at their destination in hours. 

I can’t help but think of the penguins. If one ran away from home, with those awkward baby steps it would take him three years to get to the shoreline. And yet every year they travel nine hundred miles from home to Antarctic rookeries to mate. 

If humans had to travel that far on foot, we would have become extinct a million years ago.