What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 6
How Not to Act When Your Husband Gets a Speeding Ticket 

[p.17]I may not have been the world’s best Driver’s Ed. student in high school—the word brilliant, for example, was seldom the word of choice on most of my classmates’ lips-but I did learn the following important lesson: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRUST YOUR BEST FRIEND, GIGI BALLIF, WHEN SHE’S BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A DRIVER’S ED. CAR.

This is what happened. Gigi and I were assigned to the same car on the driving range, which meant that she and I were supposed to take turns behind the wheel—stopping and starting, backing up, parallel parking, maneuvering through cones, and generally avoiding cars driven by boys in the class, all of whom thought they were actually on the bumper car ride at Lagoon Amusement Park.

It was an awesome responsibility, don’t you know.

Anyway, after a few moments of sitting in the car, preparing ourselves mentally for the challenges that lay ahead, Gigi (who was behind the wheel) finally turned on the engine and popped the car into gear. But whereas I was naively expecting to back away from the curb, we actually leaped forward onto the grass, sort of like a rabbit whose nerves are on edge, and began felling objects in front of us.

Gigi screamed. I screamed. Mr. Moon, the Driver’s Ed. teacher, did a rain dance on the blacktop. We took out a tree of the young sapling variety. The car screeched to a stop. We shook.

“This reminds me of that time we almost drove your father’s golf cart into the lake,” I pointed out.

But that’s another story.

So that was the big lesson I learned in Driver’s Ed., which frankly hasn’t been that useful to me as an adult since Gigi rarely runs into trees these days. Also all that time I spent in the simulator wasn’t very useful in my real life either since I’ve discovered you can’t carpool your kids in one.

What I would have appreciated more is some specific instruction (18) on how to respond  appropriately when your husband-the Love of Your Life, the Light in Your Eyes, the Song in Your Heart, the Spring in Your Step, and so on—gets a speeding ticket. Mr. Moon could have even made a multiple choice question out of it.

QUESTION: Which of the following comments would be inappropriate to make to your husband when he is pulled over by an officer of the law?
     a. I always thought you were a bob brain.
     b. How come you are such a bob brain?
     c. The cop is a bob brain and so are you.

Naturally, I would never call my husband, Ken, a bob brain because, as our ten-year-old son has pointed out, his father is even smarter than Alex Trebeck. Not only that, but Ken rarely gets tickets of any kind, whereas I manage to collect a parking ticket or two every time I leave the house. Ken prides himself on not getting tickets. It’s sort of a point of honor with him in the way these things are to men. Not that he hasn’t deserved a few here and there. It’s just that Heaven, as it were, has been kind.

Lady Luck, however, was not with him that fateful day on Interstate 70. We were just outside of Independence, Missouri, when we saw lights flashing behind us.

“Pull over,” I said to Ken. “You were speeding.”

Ken took umbrage. “I was not speeding. I’m going uphill in a family car hauling five kids, six basketballs, a luggage rack and several hundred pounds of Gameboy gear. How could I possibly be speeding? It’s not aerodynamically possible.”

By now his face was red and the muscles in his neck were standing out for all the world to see.

In retrospect, I know I should have handled things differently. I should have railed at the fates with Ken by (a) beating my breast, (b) heaping ashes all over my head, (c) rending my clothes, (d) rending his clothes, and (e) so forth.

Or I should have just kept my mouth shut. I hear keeping one’s mouth shut is a very good idea sometimes. But no. I couldn’t help myself.

I started to laugh.

I laughed as the officer, decked out in Standard Issue Southern [p.19]Lawman Sunglasses, walked to our car. I laughed as he poked his head inside our window and told us how fast we’d been going. I laughed when he asked for Ken’s license. You would have thought I was the world’s happiest gal, I was just laughing so much.

“Is he giving you a ticket, Dad?” one of the boys asked.

Kids. They love to be kept current on this sort of thing.

I laughed some more.

Not too long ago when Ken and I were talking about our little trip through the great state of Missouri, he said, “Sometimes you laugh at the oddest moments.”

“It’s true,” I said. “I’m sure it makes friends and family nervous whenever they have to trot me out in public. Who knows when I’ll start up again. Have you paid that ticket, by the way?”

He gave a resigned nod.

“Do you mind if I write about it?” I asked.

He thought for a minute, then said, “Only if you make one thing perfectly clear.”

“Yes?”

“I wasn’t really speeding.”

I didn’t even crack a smile.