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December 4th, 2012
08:36 PM ET

Letters to the President #1415: 'A driving lesson'

Reporter's Note: President Obama has two daughters, as do I. And presumably he will one day teach them to drive.

Dear Mr. President,

Our younger daughter, who recently acquired that most coveted of youthful prizes – the driver’s license, is now learning to drive our stick shift car which was made five years before she was born. She is relatively good at it, but the coordination of gears, clutch, brakes, and steering are far from instinctive at this juncture so any given moment can become a neck snapping adventure with the car leaping and bucking down the road.

And if that is as thrilling as a round on a state fair Tilt-A-Whirl to us, you can just imagine how it impresses nearby pedestrians, a few of whom I have watched wisely waiting on the curb for us to pass even though a well-marked crosswalk beckons them into the path of doom.

I’m not making fun of her. She is conscientious, smart, and a quick learner. As I noted just this morning while we careened through the neighborhood with the wild abandon of a go-cart racer or a demented weasel, “You know, once you master this, you will be one of the few kids at your school capable of driving a standard transmission.”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” she said. “Actually, I told some of my teachers I am learning and they said even they don’t know how to do it.”

Funny how things change. When I was in high school it seemed as if there were still a lot of standard transmissions on the road, and my parents generally regarded anyone who could only drive an automatic as somehow deficient; as if the poor soul was destined for a lifetime of boiled meat, white bread and weak tea. I can still recall the look of disdain and pity in my father’s eyes when he met someone who meekly accepted the mind-numbing limitations of an automatic transmission, not even bothering to sample the delicious joys of clutching, shifting, and coaxing an engine through its gears.

I guess, judging from my daughter’s friends and teachers, it is a dying art; soon to be as archaic as a buggy whip. But for now, I feel like we are giving more than driving lessons; we are reveling in a piece of history…sore necks and all.

So how are the fiscal cliff negotiations going? Sounds a tad rough…

Call if you can. Btw- did you see the Redskins beat the Giants last night? Quite a surprise that…

Regards,
Tom

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