Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend.
Weather is generally pretty lousy here in the New York area, but we’re dealing!
So, this being day 16 of the countdown and all, I thought it might be fun to harken back to some driving stories.
Just try to remember when you first got your Driver’s License – that moment right after you passed your test. Maybe you were just sitting there, waiting in the bowels of your local DMV, waiting for them to bring the long-awaited, perfectly-laminated 3.5 by 2.5 proof that you were cool to drive a car all by yourself.
Think about what that single moment meant vs. the many thousand upon thousand errands and treks since, plus the tick tocking away of precious hours, just waiting in the maddening snarls of traffic. Still, that moment when they finally handed your the license, well, that validated so many things for you, right?
As for me, I clearly remember those first few weeks, post license. Running every errand imaginable for my mother. (Plus plenty of others that she never asked me to do. Any excuse to just get out there and drive!) And I was always accompanied by my kid brother, Chris. Always.
Only ten years old at the time, he’d faithfully ride right next to me, blaring the radio, yelling out the window, and seemingly having the time of his life. Jesus, you’d think we were driving an Indy car or something. Different times, I guess.
Anyway, when it comes to driving, especially back when I was 16, I often think of my brother. (And a few years later, after we had done so much of that driving together – highlighted by a midnight trip to Queens, NY, just to get a glimpse of the old Shea Stadium – I realized that he must have been paying, at least, some attention.)
Everyone has their favorite driving story, and not surprisingly, mine features my brother. (The best I can do with this one, though, is to tell it vicariously, but hopefully that won’t
matter too much.)
Because my brother is nearly six years my junior, I guess he was just sort of “born older.” What do I mean?
Well, let’s say that he already knew how to do certain things most guys his age were either too clueless – or just too chicken shit – to try.
Like the time he was about a month shy of his 15th birthday, attending a party that was cut short by the arrival of the local police. As the party quickly began to break up, a family friend of ours (a guy we knew going back to our early youth in Rochester, NY) walked up to my brother (or more accurately, stumbled into him), begging him for help.
It seems that our friend was in no condition to drive, nor were any of his equally-soused buddies. And he claimed that my brother was his only hope. (Yes, my then-14-year old, boat-rocking kid brother who, although grounded by our parents, had somehow managed to sneak out of the house to make an 11th-hour appearance at the party.)
Cut to my brother, our friend, and his three highly-intoxicated chums, all stuffed into a 1982 Toyota Celica. And keep in mind that my brother, despite his exceptional adaptability, had never driven a stick-shift car. But that would change very quickly.
As I mentioned, this is a vicarious account, but if you knew my brother, you’d realize that every story that guy ever told made you feel like you were right there next to him.
So, he turned over the engine on the ’82 Celica. And then all he had to do was get it in gear. Reverse gear.
He started it up OK, but it stalled immediately. Twice.
And when he fired the engine a third time, he was so intent on not stalling again, that he mistakenly threw the car into fifth gear, instead of reverse; and the sound of the revving engine was suddenly so loud, the partygoers who remained, cruelly began mock cheering him.
But damn if he didn’t just start all over again, eventually finding reverse and hitting the gas just enough to get the car going. (Backwards, of course.)
He told me years later that he was so scared at one point, that he actually started to cry. But he fought through it like he always did, and he somehow managed to get the car going forward. Not bad, huh?! A first-time driver who not only taught himself to drive, but better yet, to drive stick!
And no matter that he stalled about 25 times more before reaching his eventual destination. Because the way he described that now long-ago-discontinued Toyota, bucking, choking, and wheezing its way down a pitch-dark rural road, I always feel like I was there, too. Always.
So, in honor of countdown day 16, please feel free to share any driving stories with me. I know you must have some great ones. (And some of you have already shared similar stories, so thanks so much for that!)