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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

'Daddy, OK ...' not just a sales pitch

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

By and large I try to ignore most television commercials. And thanks to the miracle of the remote and the versatility of the DVR, I have become pretty adept at making them vanish.

Except for one. My favorite is the 30-second Subaru spot in which the father tries to give his teenage daughter final instructions before she solos in the family sedan for the first time. Certainly you have seen it.

It never fails to bring a lump to my throat. Maybe that's because of all those teenage driving tragedies we've endured as a community the past 10 or 15 years. No need to recount the names and numbers now. That would only open old wounds. Suffice it to say, we prematurely lost some of our best and brightest, and all of our school corporations have been touched by similar tragedy.

Yep, that's why when that TV dad leans into the passenger's-side window of the Subaru and talks to his teenager -- only to envision her as a little girl instead -- my throat tightens and my eyes cloud.

The dad says: "So, you can see good? Got the mirrors all adjusted? ... Just stay off the freeways. I don't want you going out on those yet. And keep your phone in your purse. I don't want you texting."

Morphing into a little girl again, the daughter responds: "Daddy, OK," all the while contorting her face as she tries to buckle her seatbelt.

Dad leans in again, jingling a set of car keys. "OK, here you go ... be careful."

And our little girl becomes a beautiful young woman, who replies: "Thanks, Dad," and looks over her shoulder to begin backing from the driveway.

"Call me," he hollers after her before hurriedly adding, "but not while you're driving."

"We knew this day was coming," the eventual sales pitch interjects, "that's why we bought a Subaru."

Ah, if every dad knew when to let go like that.

It really hits home here because that very scene played out in my own driveway about a dozen years ago. Youngest daughter Nicole was about to go solo for the first time. Destination: Dairy Castle as she slid into the driver's seat of my wife Ruth's 1995 Geo. Not a Subaru by any stretch of the imagination, but a reliable little car nonetheless.

We went over that same list of dos and don'ts enumerated in the commercial before she put the car in reverse and eased back toward Saddle Club Road. Quickly sizing up her line, I breathed a sign of relief that the green phone box appeared safe on one side of the driveway and she was clear of the ditches on either side of the road.

As I retreated to the front porch, she tucked the gearshift into drive and the little Geo lurched forward up the road. In the blink of an eye, an Indiana State Police cruiser -- certainly a rare sight on our country road -- emerged, lights flashing and siren blaring. He pulled the little Geo over -- not 100 yards from our driveway. Poor kid didn't even hit second gear before being stopped by a cop.

Turns out she hadn't pulled the knob for the lights all the way out, which meant the tail lights had not come on. She missed it. I missed it.

Just the same, I remember I had one of those fatherly "you-have-got-to-be-alert" lectures ready for her.

And despite all the years that have intervened, I'm pretty sure I remember her exact response ...

"Daddy, OK ...."