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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Conclusion

     Just as I was about to protest that the rain made it hard to enjoy driving around and insist I take my friend home, the rain stopped. It was sultry and overcast.  Well, actually, it looked a lot on the outside like I felt on the inside. Still, she didn’t want to go home or to the library, which was my other suggestion. (With my sisters at home, taking her there was not an option, if I didn’t want them to tell on me at the earliest opportunity.)

     “Awe, c’mon. Don’t be a drag now that the rain has finally stopped. Let’s go check on the school parking lot. Maybe some of the guys are there for practice or something. We can see if we find any cars we know.” There was not a single car in that water-logged parking lot but there were enormous dips in the asphalt that provided pond-like areas through which my friend wanted me to drive. She loved to hear the spray of water and see the wake a fast-moving vehicle made going through the “pond.” Assured there was no real speed limit in an empty parking lot, I drove as fast as I felt I could maintain control.

     At last, I checked my watch and said it was time to draw our joy-riding to a close. I needed to take her home so I could get the car back, to let the engine cool down before my mom got off work.  I planned to sit in the library awhile to cool down myself. We left the school parking lot, heading for her home. She was about to close the passenger door when she paused and looked in at me.

     “Next time we need to check the weather report and only go on the sunny days.” I let her know that there would not be a next time, to which she retorted, “Awe, you’ll change your mind when the sun comes out. It was fun but could’ve been a lot more fun if it hadn’t rained. See ya!” The sound of the door shutting reminded me the day wasn’t yet over for me. Why in the world had I ever agreed to do this? My nerves were about shot and I still had to drive my mother home; I just wanted to get out of the car and forget the day.

     “Did you find everything you were looking for?” The librarian was looking right at me as I folded the two books I had removed from the shelves. “You came in earlier to check on something, didn’t you? Would you like to check out the one book there with the blue cover? The other book is a reference book so it needs to remain in the library but, if you still need to use that one, I can check it out for you.”

     “Uh, no thanks. That’s okay; I’m finished with these books.” The cannonball in my stomach just jumped into my throat, strangling me. My face was burning brightly from forehead to neckline. I hadn’t lied; I was finished with the books, but…? Ugh, what must the librarian think? She had known me since I was a little kid and I was pretty sure she would be shocked to know how I had spent my afternoon between my brief visits to the library. I just wanted to run but smiled and walked as carefully as I could through the library door.

     Sitting behind the wheel, waiting for my mother to finish work, I tried to calm myself. I felt nearly sick from the nerves that just would not relax and let me breathe. I thought about how disappointed both of my parents would be if they ever found out how I had betrayed their trust. My sorrow quickly turned to fear as I realized I would, most certainly, lose the privilege of getting my driver’s license early or being able to drive again in the next two years, should this joy-ride adventure ever become known. I didn’t really know the librarian, personally, or anything but found I was embarrassed to think that she might find out one day just how irresponsible I was and not the serious student she had given me credit for on that Saturday afternoon. I felt so awful.

     “Hi, Honey! Sorry I was a little late. I hated to keep you waiting but the register just didn’t want to check out and I didn’t want to have it waiting for me on Monday.” Mom was going on with the details of the problem but I had weightier issues on my mind so really didn’t listen. I just wanted to get home.

     “Oh, that’s okay, Mom. I didn’t wait that much longer than usual, really. Glad it worked out for you.” I carefully left the parking lot as Mom continued recounting the details of her afternoon.

     “Boy, these streets are wet! I heard the rain but had no idea it was pooling like this in the streets. Just look at that!” The water was leaving small wakes as the tires sped through the puddles on First Avenue. I was so glad that the water had derailed her usual line of questioning because she always asked me about my afternoon. I didn’t want to actually lie to her; what I had done was bad enough. “Slow down here, Honey. We’re coming to our corner.” I saw it and tried to slow down but the brakes would not respond to my pressure.

     “Thanks, Mom. I will.” I wanted to but it just wasn’t happening.

     “Slow down; we’re nearly at the corner now. You need to slow down for the turn.” I was pushing hard on the brake now but it didn’t make a bit of difference.

     “I’m trying, Mom! The brake just doesn’t work. What do I do? It won’t slow down.” Okay, now, I was in a panic and not able to think my way out of the problem for worrying what my transgressing that day may have done to the brakes.

     “Just keep going straight. Don’t try to turn. Get back over to the right lane more and move your foot off the accelerator some. Try to slow down enough to turn at the next corner and we can just inch home that way.” It was a main road but, fortunately, the rain had also influenced the number of cars on the road. When it was time to turn, I was able to slow my speed enough to turn left after a car passed me. The next left was at a snail’s pace but accomplished without problem. I worried more about crashing through the garage door because I would have to give it some gas to get up to the driveway from the street.

     “Mom, we’re coming to our corner. What do I do? I don’t want to hit the garage door if it won’t stop. What do I do, Mom?” I was nearly home but the relief I had expected to feel at the sight of that final stretch was stolen away by the problem of the brakes. My shoulders ached, my knuckles white with the hold I had on the steering wheel.

     “Don’t turn in the driveway. Just park at the curb in front of the house.” I was slowly moving over as she spoke. “Take your foot off the gas pedal now and just wait for the car to stop.” It wasn’t long before I could turn the key. The silence was like a trigger to let me exhale but my hands were shaking too much to actually move them off the wheel. “Whew, that was close. Wonder what happened to those brakes? We’ll have to ask Dad to check them before we go to church tomorrow.”

     That’s when I learned one thing Dad had not mentioned in our pre-driving car tips lecture. Wet brakes do not work well. They were fine for church the next morning, having dried out overnight. I was fine for church the next day, too, as my bedtime prayers were preceded by a good dose of repentance. No, I did not tell my parents, only God. I didn’t really know I needed to tell them and ask their forgiveness as a part of that repentance back then. In fact, if my 89-year-old mother reads this blog, she will be finding out about the adventure at the same time you are. My father is already with Jesus so he still doesn’t know, unless there is a computer room in Heaven for parents to go read their children’s blogs. In any case, I never did it again!

     The Driver’s License? I passed the road test with flying colors three days after my 15th birthday. It would have been on the day I turned 15 but my father couldn’t get off work to take me to the DMV. Since the day of this joy-riding in my parents car, I had no trouble with feeling the clutch. Even when I got a motorcycle seven years later, I thought of this incident when I felt the clutch engage. A hard lesson but one learned quite well.

****Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, God’s Footprints… Coming Tomorrow

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