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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Scene 3

     “No one will ever know. C’mon, you’re a good driver, right? It’s just for one afternoon. It’ll be fun.” I knew my driving was getting better and better and that I needed more practice to get that jerking clutch under control, but it was not legal for me to drive without a licensed driver in the car.

     “It won’t be much fun if we get caught. I don’t want to trick my Mom and, besides, someone might see us and tell her.” I loved my mother and appreciated so much that my father was not making me wait so long to be able to get the license through the school’s class. I would just die if I had to wait another two years. If I got caught, I was totally sure it would be the end to my private driving lessons from Dad and practicing with Mom.

     “No one is going to see us. If anyone does, they will just think you already passed the test. Who would tell your Mom? Nobody, that’s who. C’mon, let’s do it, just once. It’ll be so much fun and you need the practice, you already told me that. It’ll take forever if you have to wait for the Saturday’s your father doesn’t have to work. No one will find out.” I wasn’t all that convinced but didn’t want to disappoint my friend. Of course, she didn’t have a driver’s license as only one other person in my class was even working on getting one. I had just started hanging out with her group of friends and, well, I felt the pressure to fit in.

     “If I do this on one Saturday, you will want me to do it again and again and someone will tell my parents; you can bet on that!” She assured me it was a one-time deal and promised not even to mention it ever again if I would just do it this once.

     And, that’s when the plan was hatched. My father would be working on Saturday so not home until after 4:30. My sisters both planned to hang out at home so shouldn’t be anywhere they might see me, as long as I stayed away from our neighborhood. As soon as Mom came home for lunch, the plan was activated.

     “Mom, can I drive you back to work? I can hang out in the library until you finish work and drive you home. I really need the practice, please.” The library was across the street from the parking lot behind the store where Mom worked. (Of course such a ploy might not work today since kids research their papers using their computers at home but, alas, such things didn’t exist at that time.)

     “Oh, Honey, that’s a long time to sit in the library.” She didn’t get off work until 5:30 so she was thinking of those four-and-a-half hours.

     “It’s okay, Mom, really. Please.” I felt sick in my stomach and don’t know why I didn’t just use my mother’s concern as an excuse to get me off the hook but I didn’t. Instead I drove my mother back to work and parked in the lot. She wouldn’t see me unless I was dumb enough to drive around near the store, which was on the corner of one of the main streets of town. Not going there, for sure.

     “Don’t forget now, 5:30.” I agreed I would be right there at the car and she would not have to come in the library to fetch me.

     In order to keep the statement technically true, I crossed the street and took a book from the shelf in the library. My heart beat was increasing the longer I sat there, and the cannonball in my stomach even began to make it hurt. What are you doing this for? Do you think you won’t really get caught? Is it worth the risk? All of those thoughts pummeled my mind until I was sure if I didn’t just get up and do it, I never would. I didn’t want to be thought a coward by my friend and I was very sure she would tell everyone I was if I stood her up. Standing, I smiled at the librarian and headed back across to the parking lot.

     “Man, what kept you? I thought you’d chickened-out.” I didn’t want to tell her how close I had come to doing just that; or, the embarrassing fact that I was so nervous, I took a wrong turn to her house.

     “Well, I’m here now. Let’s go.” She laughed a little when the car jerked slightly. I just couldn’t get the feel of the clutch and feared I was destined to remain in the humiliating state for my lifetime.

     We drove all over the place but I stayed away from the downtown area. Finally, my friend tired of the rural and boondocks landscape and urged me to go to town. I, too, wanted to drive the familiar streets a bit but also worried about being seen.

     “We can drive the Loop but turn the block before your mom’s store. C’mon, let’s do it. We can try out the streets parallel to the Loop, too, so you can get practice on the town streets and intersections.” It sounded exciting to me to drive the popular mile-long loop all the older teens liked, but the coward in me was rearing its ugly head, too. How could I not get caught in town? Nevertheless, I over-rode good commonsense and headed for town.

     Things were going really well and, to my great pleasure, I noticed that the car had stopped lurching! I could feel the clutch by the time we had driven around the streets, stopping and starting, for about an hour. Boy, I felt great. Fear of being caught had long since left my mind.

     I saw the board in the street but not in time to stop the car. Bump and a slight rise of the car on the right let me know I had just rolled right over the board. Seconds later, the pull to the right signaled me that I was going to be glad Dad had made me learn to change a tire, after all. My elation over the clutch was immediately trounced by the fear of how to get the tire fixed and things back in the pre-borrowed state, once the tire had been changed.

     “Hey, need a hand there?” Yes, the movie scenario was right: Damsel in distress, takes out spare tire, leans it against the car, and is seen with jack in hand. Enter hero.

     “Boy, could I use a hand! I’ve been taught how to do this but never have. Those dark clouds look like a storm is coming. I hope I can get the tire changed before it lets go.” Our hero was actually one of our classmates and he took the jack out of my hands.

     “I’ll change it in a jiffy. My dad always makes me change his flat tires. Says it is good practice for when I get my own license, though he doesn’t give me any clue just when that might happen. When did you get yours?” He was busy working on the tire and not looking up as he spoke. I was relieved because I felt my face burn red hot, as my partner-in-crime began to laugh.

     “License? Uh, well, I only have a Learner’s Permit now; I’m not old enough for the actual license.” He stopped working, tools still in hand, and stared at me with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, I know it isn’t legal. It’s just for today; we thought it’d be fun but then this tire….” My face could’ve led ships in a black night’s storm the way it was radiating bright red.

     “Uh-huh. Well, then, where to get this tire fixed and back on the car just might be a little problem for you then?” My night in shining armor, disguised as a teenager in jeans and a tee shirt, dusted off his hands and shut the trunk. Finished. He laughed at the distress on my face. “C’mon, I’ll take ya to my uncle’s; he’ll fix it for ya.”

     It was raining hard by the time the vehicle was back on the road, spare tire back in the trunk. Anyone with a lick of sense would have thanked the Lord for the hero and his uncle’s rescue, calling it a day. I should have but my friend wanted to finish out the day, knowing that she would never again get me to do this! Bad mistake in judgment there.

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