Everyone can use an ICKY -- especially young drivers
The city bus chuffed to a stop in front of me, blocking more than half the lane so I couldn't go around it and had to wait until it started up again before making my right turn. The young driver of the car behind me clearly didn't feel the same compunction to wait. He pulled out, gunned past me and the bus, and disappeared in a cloud of dust as an oncoming car was forced to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid a collision.
I shook my head and was thrust mentally back to the day my son turned 15 and announced he was ready to get his learner's permit to drive. He couldn't wait for the weekend. No, today. Right now.
"Let's go," he implored.
"Wait!" I said.
He stopped midstride to the driver's side door, half turned and asked over his shoulder, "What?"
"Where's your ICKY?" I demanded. He hung his head. I looked at him with one of those superior, mother-knows-everything airs. He didn't need to hear me say, "You've just proved that you need one," which, of course, I said anyway.
The screen door squeaked its own reprimand as he sheepishly went back into the house and returned with a small daruma on which he had drawn in the eyes for good luck. After wedging it between the dashboard and the windshield, he buckled his seat belt, adjusted the mirrors, then turned to me to ask, "Ready?" Before I could say anything, he reached out and touched the daruma. Then, with his impish grin, said emphatically, "Ready."
He turned the key; the ignition caught and the engine whirred into life. He shifted into gear and drove carefully to the end of the drive, looked, signaled, and pulled into traffic. OK, not a great start but not too bad. And quickly remedied.
Are you wondering yet about this word, ICKY? Actually, it is an acronym that comes from an article I read in Reader's Digest years ago. The writer recounted that when his daughter reached driving age, his concern was overwhelming. His confidence in trusting her on the road, behind the wheel, in control of a two-ton monster was near nil. So he read up in journals, checked statistics, talked to police and, in the end, came to the conclusion that most motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers resulted from impatience.
He couldn't deal with all the teens on the road, he reasoned, but he could influence one of them. His daughter wanted to learn how to drive? OK, he would teach her. But first he went out and bought a very small stuffed animal that he presented to her at the beginning of their first foray.
"This," he told her as he placed it in her hand, "is your ICKY. You are to have it in the car whenever you drive somewhere. Before you even start the engine, you must reach out and touch your ICKY." She must promise this, he admonished, or she wouldn't have his permission to get her license.
He looked at her. She looked at him. He waited for her to say she agreed. She was waiting for him to explain what this ICKY business was. There was silence until she finally asked, "Why an ICKY?"
Suddenly, he realized that this whole idea was in his head; it meant nothing to her, and so he explained.
"Your ICKY is your personal reminder that Impatience Can Kill You. You may change its name to something more cool or more clever, but it's your ICKY."
She looked from her father to the ICKY to her father and said, "ICKY. That's clever. Cool, Daddy." She smiled, then reached over and deposited the icon in a place of prominence on the dashboard and touched it with her finger. The first driving lesson had begun.
When I read that article, I, too, thought, "How clever," and went out and got myself an ICKY. When my soon-to-be-husband asked about the mascot on the dash of my little MG, I explained and got him one. Thus my son, having grown up with an ICKY on the dash, knew it was now his turn to learn to condition himself not to act with impatience even when driving conditions might warrant it -- to acquire the habit of remembering and relying on his ICKY with the automaticity that comes from doing something without even thinking about it, like answering to his name or counting to 10 or saying 'Yes, sir' to his seniors.
If having an ICKY kept him from blowing through one yellow light, or speeding to get someplace when he was late, or passing a slow-moving vehicle in a blind curve, if having an ICKY saved him from hurting or being hurt, I believed it would be worth all the nagging and badgering and reminding I was willing to engender to achieve the result.
That was nearly 25 years ago. Still today, my stalwart son doesn't drive without an ICKY on his dash. Nor, from what I've seen when riding with him, does he turn the key before touching it. His wife has one in her car, too, and indeed, in just a few years, I'm sure my grandchildren will be gifted at the magic moment with their very own ICKYs to continue the tradition.
I thought of all that as the bus pulled away in a gust of diesel and gathered speed, and I was able to make my turn into the parking lot. I rolled between the lines of a parking space and stopped. I shut down the engine, unbuckled my seatbelt, and with my left hand on the door handle, reached with my right to thank my ICKY.
Wendy Richmond Pollitt, a frequent Star-Bulletin letter writer, lives in Kaneohe.