Driver's Education - the Sequel

Recently, when my son started driving, I finally came to understand the difference between a storm watch and a storm warning.

The two terms had confused me. Both begin with the same word, and both imply something might happen.

Which one is which, I'd wonder, looking uncomprehendingly at my radio.

But now, thanks to the mental focus that comes with notions of impending calamity, I get it.

A watch is what happens when something potentially bad is out there, gathering strength, such as a teenager who will be on the streets with his license in a few months.

A warning is when the potential is nearby, ready to wreak havoc, such as when the teenager is at the wheel and I am in the ­passenger seat, teaching him.

I'll never be confused again.

WE'RE IN THE CAR, Sam (my 16-year-old driver-permit son) and I.

He's behind the wheel, gunning the engine of two tons of raw automotive power while looking out at the street from inside this fearsome steel ramming machine.

Okay, he's not gunning. He stepped on the accelerator to start the car.

And, all right, the, uh, "machine" isn't fearsome. It's not even made of steel. It's plastic. Maybe really hard cardboard. It's a Subaru, okay?

Still, we're on narrow streets, and there are cars everywhere and moms with baby carriages all over the place and old men with canes crossing at every corner and little kids chasing after beach balls and dogs and cats and chickens.

Okay, maybe not. But he is driving.

He's driving.

Me? I'm (cringe) staying (scrunch) calm.

As we drive through town, my psyche is like a third person in our conversation.

I say: "See the guy opening his door? At the parked car? On the right?"