“She’s getting her Learners Permit.” Everyone who’s been in church during Prayers for Joy and Concerns knows the next comment, “Both a joy and concern.” Prior knowledge didn’t matter, folks laughed. Ever since that first day a teenage-adult got their hands on a car the community’s had a nervous laugh.
We were thirty-two with two daughters and a new Ford pickup truck, gray. Two days after buying the truck a bit of buyer’s remorse settled in. We had committed ourselves to another $18,000. And I had trouble shaking the adage, You lose a third of the value the moment you drive it off the lot. Some decisions we just learn to live with.
A few dents and years down the road the gray truck pulled out of the driveway. In the hands of a Learners Permit. Fourteen years of gravel roads, construction sites, and overloading the pickup bed a few too many times had taken their toll on the truck. The truck handled the road just fine. Though the steering wandered in an experiential way. However, if a learner can handle a steering wheel with two inches of leeway before moving right or left and still keep the truck between the lines, they are sure to do just fine when they move from truck to car with much less metal surrounding them. As a matter of course, I figured it best not to ask my neighbors their opinion of such wandering thinking. For it might be something more than a nervous church laugh.
Parental justification is everything. The truck made a left onto a reservation road lacking any notion of a centerline or fog-lines. No lines to keep the truck between, little to no traffic on the backroads to school, daughter and community will be just fine. Such is the thinking of a hopeful parent.
Hopeful thinking has one think our community may be better off with a few other Learners Permits. Proving to community one has good sense in other areas of life before acting might make good communal sense. If community thinks it a good idea to train our young folk on managing a 2000-pound vehicle, wouldn’t something like a learning to vote permit make sense? Who doesn’t know at least one politician—school board to president—whose truck of good sense has a clanking u-joint?
Perhaps our communities would need to deal with fewer politician wrecks if they offered a Voters Permit to our young folk; say when they are fourteen and a half years old. Before voting they might meet with a bi-partisan council and talk about policy’s and candidates. Maybe we would not only get better voters out of the deal, but such conversation could lead to better community. Like driving, one need not be required to obtain the permit. No permit would mean, like it does for driving, they simply wait until they are eighteen years of age where at that time, regardless of good council and sense, they get to vote.
Fall is the time year when our young folk become drivers and voters for the first time. How well they do is up to those who’ve driven and voted for years. With a little patience and more conversation our community might experience fewer wrecks, of consciousness and steel.