Thursday, June 27, 2013

Behind The Wheel

TigerBlog's car went past the 143,600-mile mark yesterday, and TB estimates that he's driven probably 143,500 of those miles.

His previous car - actually a minivan - retired with 155,000 or so on it. Before that, he never had a car reach 100,000, though he had three get to 90,000.

Add all that together, plus all the miles on all of the other cars he's had, and all the times he drove Princeton's cars, and he figures he's over the 1,000,000-mile mark. That would be more than 40 trips around the Earth at its equator.

TigerBlog Jr.'s career odometer sat at zero yesterday as TB let him take the keys yesterday morning.

An hour earlier, TBJ had passed his written test, which gave him a learner's permit. During the next six months he has to do at least 65 hours of driving, of which 10 have to be at night and five have to be in bad weather.

Then he can take his road test, and after that, presumably, be in charge of driving Miss TigerBlog wherever she has to go.

TB remembers the first time he was behind the wheel, a long, long time ago. His grandparents on his mother's side operated a driving school in Queens, and his grandfather taught TB to drive in one of those cars that has a break on the passenger's side as well.

What really stands out to TB from the first time he drove was that when he let go of the brake, the car moved without having to hit the gas. He found that somewhat startling.

Anyway, TB took TBJ to a big parking lot at a community park, one that had only two cars in it at the time. They belonged to parents with little kids who were on the playground there.

TB gave TBJ the keys and a brief tutorial on how it all worked. Then TBJ put the car in drive, went forward a bit and then slammed on the brakes, not realizing that in the braking world, a little goes a long way.

For 30 minutes, the two drove around the parking lot, making right turns and left turns, going to imaginary stop signs, getting the basics down.

There were a few times when he cut the turn too sharply, which would have meant wiping out someone's mailbox had it been on an actual road. For the most part, though, he was doing fine.

From there it was time to try the actual road. His first attempt was to make a right turn out of the park and then go about a half mile down the road to the middle school, where he made a right turn into that parking lot.

In all, he would drive for about two hours yesterday, and he would take out not a single mailbox or parked car, though he did have a tendency to drift towards the curb, something that needs to be corrected.

In all, it was a petrifying experience for TigerBlog.

As a parent, life becomes a series of milestones by your children, from learning to roll over and walk and talk to the first day of school to the first day of middle school to the first day of high school and on and on. Each time they take that big next step, it sends you back to the time when they were babies, and when they were helpless, and when they couldn't make a move without you.

It didn't seem that long ago that TBJ was a baby. And there he was yesterday, behind the wheel of a car.

It's moments like that that make a parent feel old. Turning 30 or 40 or even 50? Nah. Seeing your child in the driver's seat? Yup.

TB knows something that's going to make him feel way older than anything his own kids do, though.

One of these days, the child of a a Princeton athlete who competed here when TB was covering him or her will also come to Princeton as an athlete, and TB will feel ancient at that moment.

If it's already happened, he can't think of who it is.

TB first started covering Princeton athletics for real in 1989-90. If someone graduated that year, they'd be 45 or 46 right now. If they had a child at 28 then that child would be 18 now, and graduating high school.

When TB looks at it that way, then the floodgates of next generation Princeton athletes should be coming up relatively quickly.

If he goes by when he first started working here a few years later, well, then that backs up the timetable just a bit.

Either way, the day is coming.

There are all kinds of Princeton athletes whose parents (and even grandparents and great-grandparents) competed here. TB remembers receiving a letter - not an email but an actual letter - pointing out that a Princeton woman was a fourth-generation coxswain in her family, though the name and years escape TB.

There have been numerous Princeton lacrosse players whose fathers played here, but they were all before TB's time.

No, the day is coming when the son of a player TB saw play shows up on Princeton's lacrosse team, or the son or daughter of another Princeton athlete shows up on the roster of another team.

And on that day, TB will shake his head and say "wow."

And he'll really feel old.

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