My son recently took his driver’s permit exam, a 50-question test that some government employee has determined separates the safer drivers from the problem drivers.
The DMV was filled with moms, dads and their teenage children during this last week of school. Parents commiserated about insurance costs, time investment, driving horror stories, girls-driving-in-cars-with-boys stories and more. The girls looked very nervous. The boys played on their cellphones and appeared bored.
If you fail this test by missing 11 out of the 50 questions, you get another chance. If you fail it again, you have to return the next day, pay $2 and try again. We’re not sure if there is a limit to how many times you can take the test during your lifetime.
My son failed it, twice. He missed 12. They handed him a picture of a driver’s license with his photo on it. On the top of the license bold lettering declared, "NO PRIVILEGES."
“It looks like,” I said, looking at the license, “you don’t have any privileges. Sorry to hear that.”
“They should have given me another chance,” my son said.
“They did — tomorrow.”
“You have to pay $2,” he said.
“No. You have to pay $2.”
“They should have just asked me one more question so I could drive.” He hit the window. “Just one more question. They could have just asked, ‘What do you do when the light turns red?’”
I stopped the car. “So you think that even though the rules are that you have to pass the test, they should have made an exception for you today?”
“Did you read the handbook they give out?”
“I took some practice tests online.”
“Did you read the handbook, the rule book, the book that tells you what you need to know?"
“But you should drive?”
I thought for a moment and asked, “If I teach you something, will you listen?” He complained again, saying the rule was not fair. I repeated the question. He finally agreed.
“Here’s the deal,” I said. “Fair is where you go to see a pig. Society creates rules to live by. We agree to them. If you follow the rules, life is easier. If you choose not to follow the rules, you have to spend more time, money and energy getting back in line to eventually follow the rules. Had you studied the handbook, you’d have known the answers and you would be driving home. Don’t blame them for the fact that you didn’t do what they expected.”
I was proud of myself. I had carefully explained a life principle to my son without going berserk. “Did you pick up the handbook to study?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said, staring out the window. “I’m going to take some more practice tests. ... Can we come back tomorrow?”
Christopher Robbins is the pater familius (founder and president) of Familius.com, a media company that works to help families be happy. He is a husband and father of nine, a graduate of BYU (twice) and may be reached at [email protected].