“How about you drive us the rest of the way home?” My dad asked as we pulled to the side of the road.
We were on our way home from church on a beautiful Sunday morning in the most pleasant stretch of an Indiana spring. Roughly a half mile from home, the remaining journey consisted of two long straights, four left turns, one right turn and one stop sign. Simple enough for a 15-year-old who’s only experience driving involved video games and rental go-karts.
I hopped out of the passenger’s seat of my dad’s 1989 crystal blue Ford Thunderbird LX and ran around the front end of that long hood. Getting behind the wheel, I felt the automatic seatbelt glide its way behind me and secured my lap belt. Very little in the way of instruction was given to me. I had the general knowledge about the car which consisted of the wheel steered the car, the right pedal sped up the car, my dad loves this car and it is illegal for me to drive this car. Let’s go.
The first long, smooth strip of black top was fine. I watched as the speedometer digitally indicated 40 miles per hour, just as its fixed cousin on the sign told me. “Now, this car has power brakes, so you don’t need to press very hard,” my dad told me from the passenger’s seat. I watched as the road was quickly coming to a T and I gently applied pressure to the brakes.
Perhaps too gently.
The next thing I knew was that I completely blew through the stop sign, swerved to avoid the cornfield straight ahead, overcorrected left and put the car directly into a telephone pole. Then, to add insult to injury, I misjudged which pedal I was pressing and, with the front wheels lifted off the ground but the driven wheels still on terra firma, continued to push the car into the tarred timber.
I was told to walk home while my dad would talk to the cops since we’d (well, I had, but we couldn’t really say that) destroyed municipal property.
Seventeen years later, on a slightly grayer late winter day, I brought my Miata up to show my parents. Being that it is a two-seater, I could really only take one of them for a ride at a time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but while my dad was in the passenger’s seat, I headed back to that same corner going the opposite way.
I like to think that my skill level has increased after gaining my license, racing competitively for 5 years and fending off hordes of LA traffic. That doesn’t mean that my dad trusts me to drive though.
There is no stop sign facing the turn on to that strip of road, but there is a whole lot of gravel. Maybe I should have eased into it, but I instead dropped a gear, took that corner at speed, mashed the gas and kicked the back end out. Now, I’m sure that this had nothing to do with the immediate statement that we needed to go back because he forgot to go to the bathroom, but he never did ask to go back out once he’d visited the facilities.