24. Drivers EdRyan’s nerves were shot. “Why do you keep doing that?” he asked.

“Doing what?” his mother said.

“Slapping your hand on the dash every time I stop!”

It had been a tension-filled afternoon for both of them. Ryan was going for his driver’s license test in two days, and his mother wanted to see how he drove, to see that she could trust him or, Ryan thought more likely, to see that she couldn’t. She had always been high-strung, over protective, and tended to think of him as an eternal six-year-old. He thought he had made his peace with that. This driving experience, though, where all of those factors were coming into play, hadn’t been pleasant for either of them.

“I don’t do that every time,” she said.

“Yes, you do!” He heard himself, and winced at how whiny he sounded. This was one of those times, he knew, he needed to sound mature.

“Well, you’re braking too quickly,” she said.

“My braking is fine.”

“I wouldn’t be grabbing the dash if you weren’t breaking so hard.”

“The seatbelt isn’t even locking,” he said, opting for a logical approach. “If I broke too hard, it would lock.”

“I know that,” she said. “It’s just a reflex.”

“Without the seatbelt, grabbing onto the dash wouldn’t save you from going face first into the windshield, anyway,” he said, and knew immediately it was the exact wrong thing to say, even as he was saying it.