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My daughter is learning to drive.
I now know the true meaning of fear.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a terrible driver. She’s just 16 and easily distracted. Something piques her interest (an extra cool car, someone she thinks she knows or a fire truck pulling up to her favorite movie theater), and our car swerves dangerously. She says because driving is so new to her, "Sometimes I forget I’m driving."
As I said, the true meaning of fear.
In the state of Ohio, after getting their learner’s permit, kids must drive for 50 hours with a parent before they can take their driver’s test. Now into hour 15, as my daughter pulls our car into the street, I find myself silently chanting – it’s only sheet metal, it’s only sheet metal, it’s only sheet metal.
I tell myself how lucky I am. I know every good body shop within a 50-mile radius. Several are personal friends. I have no doubt about the excellent quality of repair that my car would receive.
After all these years of publishing a collision repair magazine, I have no qualms about making sure I get what’s fair when dealing with an insurance company.
In the past 21 years, I’ve been fortunate to meet many bright and talented people who’ve taught me a lot about the collision repair industry. As my daughter’s attention wanders to some kids playing in a front yard and our car quickly plows through a snow bank and straight toward a mailbox, I’m able to silently tabulate the parts that will likely be damaged from this type of a hit while simultaneously grabbing the wheel and jerking it to the left.
I’ll never forget one shop tour I received during BodyShop Business’s first year of publishing. We stopped to look at a very heavy hit that was on a frame machine. "I’ve seen too many of those to ever drive without wearing a seatbelt," the shop owner told me. I don’t know if he meant it as advice, but that’s how I took it and have never failed to buckle up from that day on.
I’m grateful for my years as an observer of the collision repair industry and for all the lessons I’ve learned. I feel it has had a positive effect on my life and maybe even on teaching my daughter to drive.
She tells me she thinks we’re both doing well. She feels that her driving skills are improving every day and that it’s great that I’ve only grabbed the steering wheel three times and yelled "Oh my God!" just once.
Although, at times it’s been frightening, there have also been some warm and pleasant moments as my daughter takes this very big step toward adulthood.
I also brace myself because I know the worst is still ahead.
"Just because the speedometer only goes to 120 doesn’t mean the car can’t go any faster than that, does it?" my son recently asked. He gets his learner’s permit in 16 months.
It’s only sheet metal, it’s only sheet metal, it’s only sheet metal.