Wish You Were Here: “I Almost Killed a Dog”

To Brake or Not to Brake, That is the Question (for a New Teen Driver's Mom)

photo: Shutterstock

I almost killed a dog. The fact that there was an “almost” between “I” and “killed” still ended with some serious brake slamming, screaming and hoping against all odds there wasn’t a pug pancake under my wheels before heading home to submerge my head in a lovely bowl of sangria.

Let’s just say when it comes to reflexes, I’m totally that little girl in the doctor’s office getting her knee whacked over and over again with the triangle hammer and “still nothing?”

So wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I haven’t the foggiest how that lucky pup managed to escape unfettered, unscathed and all with a rubber chicken in his mouth.

But me? I was a wreck.

I mean crying, white knuckles on the wheel, opening scene of a really bad Lifetime movie (think wasted hours and multiple Kleenex of your life you will never get back), side of the road mess. And while I know “almost” doesn’t count, it still was a dog-gone (thankfully not really gone) way to end my evening.

Accidents happen — not so, according to my husband, who always makes a point of telling me he’s not planning on getting into one — but “All the time!” I tell my older daughter.

“You have to think fast. Sometimes, you just have to be able to make these, like … very vital, almost … life or death decisions. You know what I’m saying?” To brake or not to brake? To swerve or not to swerve? And it’s not just limited to the road … um, paper or plastic? Would you like fries with that? (The answer to that is always “Yes. Thank you.”) Does he have to wear a condom? Again, always “Yes, thank you very much!”

“Could you please shut up now, Mom?” No. But I’m sure this is precisely what she’s thinking as I take a second to slug down my coffee.

I can’t help it. She’s a new driver and it’s my job as her mother to scare the living shit out of her. And since I have nothing but time on my hands and words on my lips, and since Rte. 7 southbound looks like something out of Taking Woodstock minus the mud pits and hippies, I figure why not regale her with my tale of, “Whoa, that pug came outta nowhere! and another thing, just the other day I was coming along like nobody’s business in not-yo’-mama’s-minivan when low and behold onto my latte, some guy who thought he was maybe Mario Andretti cruised past me in his little red Mazda, forgetting all about this thing called the brakes and slammed into the car in front of him, and for real, I still can’t get that burning tire smell out of my nostrils or the image of that poor Andretti-wannabe whacking himself in the forehead repetitively while I called 911.”

We’ve all been there. Trust me. I hit myself a lot but so far, I haven’t been able to smack the stupid out.

Here’s the thing: most people (myself included) aren’t always looking out for fugitive four-leggers or midlife-y men with Miatas or lovely young ladies to the left of us who seemed very intent on hanging as far a humanly possible from every orifice of their (I know it wasn’t an Oldsmobile but it looked like one) without actually falling out onto the pavement.

And this is what I worry about, (which I guess in fairness is what every parent worries about when their kid starts driving) — that it’s not always so easy to hit the breaks at the last second and even when you do, even when you slam so hard you skid and scream and cause your poor sleeping toddler to wake up wailing and your latte goes flying along with some Cheerios while somehow that porky little pugger manages to cross the road with that rubber chicken still intact and you’re so relieved, you start crying and shaking and the stupid guy whose dog it is comes to collect (I think his name was) Patches and he doesn’t even thank you or say he’s sorry or grunt in acknowledgement that you saved his sweet little almost shrapnel from an untimely fate.

That, and, “You always have to look out for the other guy.”

This is my big life advice after all that. Which is exactly what my grandfather said to my mother when she started driving and what my mother told my father to say to me because she couldn’t tell me anything about anything when it came to getting behind the wheel or even ride shotgun without pushing a full on panic attack and dismembering the oh shit handle. My grandpa also came home drunk in a cab with a mud covered calzone and (live) sow after being sent out on a bacon pizza run, so I guess you have to take everything with a grain of salt or a shrapnel of skepticism.

Nevermind. My analogies are as poor as my reflexes. After all, I killed a dog. Almost.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.