I also tend to be an overly cautious driver.
When I was a youngster my parents always chose a preparatory form of discipline, meaning they would go way overboard with warnings prior to my having done anything wrong. A sort of preemptive strike of tough love, if you will.
The one about gas went like this:
If you ever run out of gas it is your own fault for not paying attention, so don't bother calling us to come help you. We will leave you stranded wherever you are.
Here's another one concerning the fuel tank of the car:
If you ever return our car without the same amount of gas that was in the tank before you drove it, don't bother bringing it back at all.
And yet another teen driving related gem:
If you ever get into an accident while you are driving our car we will take away your driving privileges until after graduation.
Do you know they said all of these things to me before I even got my learner's permit?
All those rules with no room for error?
I didn't care if I never learned to drive. A freakish attitude for a Mid-Western teenager indeed, but I had a bit of an attitude problem about everything generally and didn't ever like to get excited about much of anything. Especially if was something that I saw other teen-age girls getting all charged up over.
I sneered at charged up teen-age squealing.
I sneered at driving.
On my 15th birthday in July of 1982 my parents got me a certificate to get driving lessons from Lazarus, a local department store that offered individualized lessons with a private instructor. They didn't approve of the Driver's Ed classes offered for free at my high school. Not thorough enough they said. They were right too because I didn't know of anyone that took the driver's ed at my high school that didn't have to retake the driving exam at the BMV multiple times to finally get their license.
A few days after my birthday my mom took me to our town's branch of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and I got my learner's permit. She asked me if I'd like to drive us home. I said no.
In the days and weeks that followed my mother repeatedly asked me if I wanted to drive everywhere. Grocery store? No. Pick up my sister from summer school? No. End of the street? No. Crazy Aunt's house to go swimming (she lived a few blocks away)? No. No. And still NO.
After several weeks of constant nagging I finally agreed to drive to my friend's house that I had made plans to hang out with one Saturday afternoon. I buckled to the constant harping, figuring it would get my mother, who was by this point whipped into a frenzy over my cool aloofness with regard to driving, off my back for a little while.
The poor woman was clearly puzzled and not just a little concerned about why I was not peeing in my pants with excitement about learning to drive. Add this to the her litany of other concerns, Why didn't I have more "normal" friends? Why wasn't I trying out for the dance team? Why wasn't I more interested in boys? For most of my teen-age and early adult life, unbeknownst to me but to my utter delight when I found out years later, she wrung her hands and stayed awake at night worrying that I was a lesbian.
You guys know that I'm kind of an asshole, right?
The truth is I didn't want to learn to drive. It was too scary.
Also I reasoned, based upon the all of the rules and warnings listed above that had been issued and repeated like a broken record over the years, in stern, angry tones, it would be yet one more privilege to be dangled in front of my face and yanked away at their will.
I further reasoned that if I didn't learn how to drive, not only would my parents have one less way to punish me, but also that my mother would have to continue to drive me around to all of my various teen-age destinations (mall, my best friend Bob's house, etc..), like a station wagon chauffeur and that would just be hilarious. Most of my other friends were learning to drive so they could cart me around since I was spending most of my time with them anyway. Besides, I had a bike.
So the big day finally arrives when I am to drive to my friends house.
After a few moments we composed ourselves apologized to our neighbor, who understood as he had himself 2 grown daughters. We eventually got straightened out, took some deep breaths and drove the half block to the stop sign at the end of our street after what seemed like 20 minutes.
By this time, my sister had had enough of this shit.
As she did whenever she was upset, she began bouncing up and down in her seat and banging her forehead rhythmically against the seat rest in front of her, and quietly chanting, "I don't like this, I don't like this, I don't like this..."
The kid was onto something.
But Mom insisted we keep going.
I had no idea what I was doing and this shocked my mother to her core. She had been driving since she was a child and had learned to drive out of necessity on her uncle's farm. She had been driving for so long that for her it was second nature, instictive. She had mistakenly assumed that I would magically know how to drive too. So she kept us moving forward, thinking that at any moment my instincts would kick in.
We carried on with our journey in fits and starts that rocked the car back and forth for the 7 miles between my friends' house and ours. Each time my inexperienced foot touched the gas pedal we lurched forward, scaring the shit out of all of us and causing me to suddenly slam on the breaks in reaction. Along the way I encountered for the first time traffic lights, cars merging into my lane from a freeway exit, pedestrians in crosswalks, railroad tracks, etc..
By the time we got to my friends house all three of us were hysterical and crying.
My sister's chant had changed to, "Mommy you drive now, Mommy you drive now, Mommy you drive NOW..."
I was too shaken up to hang out with my friend so I offered my aplogies, suggested we hang out some other time and Mom and I switched places in my friend's driveway. We went back home in silence. My sister had ceased her chanting, but continued to quietly bounce and knock her head in the seat rest.
I didn't attempt to drive again for several months. The certificate for the Lazarus driving lessons sat untouched in my bedroom vanity for the rest of the summer and well into the middle of the following school year. My mother continued to cart me around, but somehow it wasn't that funny.
My sister, was scarred from the experience for several years afterwards. She would not get into a car with me behind the wheel until after I had turned 18 and had gotten my own car. Even then I had to drive her around the block a few times before she believed I could drive. Also I bribed her by allowing her to sit in the front seat and taking her to the McDonald's drive-thru.
Of course now I'm an excellent driver (Rainman reference). I enjoy it too. In fact MDH calls me "The Ultimate Driving Machine" and prefers that I drive on most of our car trips.
Oh, and I never let us run out of gas either.