The great DQ Blizzard of '05

There are few rites of passage in teenage-dom as monumental as passing your driver's test and taking your first solo drive. Ah, the unbridled freedom! Playing your music so loud that your ears bleed; windows open, hair blowing in the wind. It's a heady feeling.

There are few rites of passage in parenthood as monumental as The Taking Away Of The Teenager's License For Blatant Infraction.

Sadly, not a week had passed from the first passage to the second. I think she set a new land speed record for the loss of a driver's license. What's sad is that just before she left the house she'd asked me if I'd ever had a ticket.

ME: Nope. Not one.

HER: Ever had an accident?

ME: Nope.

HER: In all those years? Never?

ME: Not one. You can't say the same thing about your father.

I added that last little bit simply so she would continue to believe that I was the superior driver in the family. It's a female thing. Then she said something so touching, so sweet, so honeyed that I thought I'd need a big glass of milk to wash it down.

"Then that's my goal too. To be just like you and be a good driver."

Uh huh. That should have been my first clue .

Then she left. With my vehicle. With instructions to go to the library and then come home.

Stephanie has what is called an Intermediate License. This means that she can drive a vehicle with other people in the car if they are members of her immediate family. We wouldn't let her drive her cousins last week. We believe in obeying the law.

It appears we neglected to instill that whole obey-the-law thing in our teenage mutant driver. Her father spied her as he was driving home from work and noticed that there was one, perhaps two other people in the vehicle with her. They were eating DQ Blizzards. One of them tried to crouch down and hide after our daughter recognized her father's pickup truck beside her on the road.

When he informed me of what he'd seen, I immediately dialed Stephanie's cellphone.

ME: "Where are you?"

HER: Fred Meyer's.

ME: Who is with you?

HER: No one.

ME: Your father says he saw someone in the van with you.

HER: Well, I have an orange construction cone in the back. He probably thought that was a person. I swear there isn't anyone with me, Mom!

Riiiiight. A Blizzard-eating construction cone with the flexibility to bend at the waist and hide from passers-by. Who knew that construction cones were sentient beings?

I hung up and phoned three of the friends that my husband thought he saw. The first two had been home the entire time, with their mother's corroborating testimony. The third teenage girl wasn't as convincing, and there was no mother to back up her story. She certainly didn't sound like an orange construction cone to me, but it's difficult to tell with teenagers these days.

When the offending daughter finally arrived home, we sat her down and told her that we'd ask her one more time. Was there someone in the car with her?

Of course there wasn't! It was the construction cone! She wouldn't break the rules! How could we impugn her honor in such a fashion?

"I'm going to ask you one more time. And before you answer, consider whether or not you'd like to lose your license for a week or for a month. The choice is yours. "

They hate it when you're all calm and reasonable. This is why I do it.

After an eternity filled with various facial expressions and mental contortions, she finally admitted the truth. The construction cone wasn't eating an Oreo Blizzard. It was her friend Brittany. Now I can relax and not worry about inanimate objects suddenly springing to life and eating in my van.

I also don't have to worry about losing my vehicle for the next week. She handed over her license to us and left the room in a huff. An Oreo Blizzard-scented huff. Her father and I sat there for a moment in silence.

"You know, I'd probably have done the same thing at her age," whispered my husband. I agreed that I would also perhaps have done the same thing. We both giggled furiously, then put our parental game faces back on and went back to work.

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