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LIFE THROUGH THE REAR VIEW MIRROR:

BEHIND THE WHEEL: JOYRIDES AND FOGGY NIGHTTIME NOTIONS (PART II OF IV)

In honor of the fact that my driver’s license is finally expiring after what seems like ages and since they didn’t just mail me a new one again like last time, I actually have to brave the DMV and a camera for a new photo (two of my least favorite activities) . Over the remainder of this week I’ll be sharing some of my adventures and lessons learned while behind the wheel. For Part I, which focuses on first car accidents and lessons learned, click here.

So today, I’ll focus on the anticipation, fun, and danger of what really makes first getting to drive so exciting and appealing. Let me just preface this column entry with the following, I was a good kid growing up and a good teenager (or as good as teenagers can be) as were my friends at the time (many of which I’m still friends with), so my parents didn’t have much to worry about when it came to me or my friends. Sure, we went to parties and stayed out past curfew, etc. but then I appeased all of that by getting good grades and not being too “angst-y” during these teenage years. Nothing too out of the ordinary, except for what they didn’t really know –which at the time we didn’t really think of it as being too dangerous, but in reality it could have been.

The day I could get my driver’s license couldn’t come fast enough for me. Out of the blue one day when I was twelve or thirteen my father decided to teach me how to drive. I give him major props for not showing any fear of losing his life while being in the same vehicle that a pre-teen me was behind the wheel of. In fact, if anyone has a teenager or even an adult that needs to learn how to drive, I’d send them over to my father who has nerves of steel and even more patience than I do (which for those of you that know me, is a lot). The best thing I remember him doing was pretending to sleep while I drove. At first, it’d freak me out a little and then it might’ve empowered me a little thinking “Wow. I must be doing a really good job, if dad trusts me to not kill us.” I remember him telling me the first time he did it something along the lines of, “Siria, I’m going to take a nap. If you want to kill us that is up to you, but I think we’ve each still got a lot left to do before either of us go.” All I could answer was “Ok.

Yeah, ok no pressure right?

My mother was another story. She obviously was more fearful of her life. Heck, she had us and my younger brother to keep in order, so who could really blame her? She would refuse to ride any vehicle that I might be driving up until the time she deemed it completely necessary. Which came about the time that I was fifteen and a half and only after I’d: fulfilled the mandatory four Saturdays of Driver’s Ed (our school didn’t offer a Driver’s Education course option, so we had to take these at local driving schools—that doesn’t mean we were spared “Red Asphalt” though), had obtained my learner’s permit, and also put in the obligatory number of hours of behind-the-wheel with the driver instructor. Even then, it took her a while to stop telling me to “slow down” or to “check my mirrors” every five minutes or so. My favorite recollection was probably of her pumping the non-existent brake with her right foot while sitting in the passenger seat as I would near stop signs and stop lights. Somehow though, we all got through it and eventually I had my driver’s license.

However, there were those six months between having my permit and having a real driver’s license, where I’d decided that a permit was pretty much just like a driver’s license right? Especially if one of my other friends who also happened to have a permit was with me as well right? If one permit basically equaled a driver’s license, then with two permits we were totally in the clear, right? Right. We didn’t really believe that, but we decided that driving around together couldn’t really hurt.

Queue one of my best friends at the time, *Jennifer.

It all started with a party we wanted to go to, that didn’t even end up being a real party in the end. It was just some of our friends hanging out. It was a late night thing though and of course none of our parents would give us a ride there, nor allow us to stay out so late.

So we proceeded to come up with a plan, initially the only things that weren’t a variable in the plan were that we’d have to sneak out no matter what the plan was and that Jennifer would spend the night at my house. We contemplated our options, among which was calling other friends who already had their driver’s licenses and have one of them pick us up. However, we decided that we didn’t want to be stuck with anyone else and not be able to get back to my house before my parents woke up, at least not this first time.  So we did the next best thing. We decided that the only thing we could do was sneak out in my truck  (I had a car before I had my driver’s license—so, random I know).

Only, we didn’t know the first thing about sneaking a car out of a driveway, much less how to be completely silent.  So we called up one of our guy friends that I’d known since elementary school, who happened to be with a bunch of our other guy friends. Their advice to us was to put it in neutral and then push it down the driveway. Two problems presented themselves fairly quickly.  1.) The truck was a big extended cab four wheel drive that we, being two teenage girls, definitely couldn’t push anywhere 2.) The driveway was flat, not at an incline – so it wasn’t that easy to get it to roll back and we were afraid it’d roll away from us and somehow crash into something like our fence.  We decided not to push our luck. The guys volunteered to come get us, however by that point we’d just given up on going anywhere that night.

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Given up that is, until I had the idea of covering up the sound by running the washer and dryer to hide the sound of the engine turning. This worked like a charm and soon we were off excitedly to the lame party. It really was as I mentioned not really a party, more like friends hanging out–which is what most parties are anyhow, right? So we hung out for a little bit and then saw the time, by that point we definitely should’ve been pumpkins at least a few times over. So back to my house we headed, when BOOM! Karma hit us in the form of a dense blanket of fog (for those of you that aren’t aware, due to all of the agriculture in Bakersfield it has a well-deserved reputation for having awful fog. It gets so bad that schools frequently have 2hr/3hr. fog delays (sometimes, albeit rare, resulting in school closures for the day) during the winter months. Anyhow, so we already knew we shouldn’t be driving to begin with, especially not at those hours of night, add to that the fear of getting caught and we pretty much wanted to pull over on the side of the road and start bawling and call my parents to come get us. Only, I thought about the consequences and we decided trying to make our way to my house while driving blindly in the fog was a better choice. Eventually we made it home; a fifteen minute drive took us probably over an hour.

Now, I’d like to say that we learned our lesson after that night, but I’d be lying. The coming months included many more of these escapades and I’m still curious as to why my parents never questioned why we always had “midnight laundry sessions” when Jennifer spent the night. I’m also not sure why my brother never told on us either, but I’m not sure he really knew either. If they all had only known at the time, I might still be grounded to this day. They are actually aware of the on-goings by now as I finally told them sometime a few years ago. They were none too pleased, but were happy nothing had ever happened to us and on some level were actually kind of amused by the story. Jennifer and I still laugh about this every now and then when we are reunited. We’ve had many other adventures together mostly with me behind the wheel, as she was probably the first person to discover the fact that unlike with the rest of my life, I have absolutely no sense of direction when driving (my brother ended up with that gene — you’ll read about what other adventures that has gotten me into in next couple of days as this series continues).

The last scarier adventure that Jenn and I had together while driving was probably when I was in college at about 19 years old and was putting on my first fashion show in Orange County, which she was going to be a model in. I picked her up the night before the show and she was napping as we made the 3 hour drive back from Bakersfield to the OC. Somehow I managed to also doze off (I think at that point I’d been up for over 24 hours and the day was taking a toll) while driving up the grapevine.  Somehow, we both woke up at about the same time (I actually think Jenn woke up about a second before I did) to find that we were slowly swerving from the middle lane into the fast lane. We were so lucky that no cars were in that lane and also that we didn’t stay asleep for another few seconds as we would’ve either crashed onto the side railing or gone completely off the edge of the mountain road and I wouldn’t have gotten to meet so many of you in the years that came after this.

A few other things happened before I actually got that driver’s license all due to my impatience with getting to drive. About the time when I was about a month away from the date that I could finally take my driver’s test, my parents finally gave in and started to let me drive from home to school and vice versa, which of course I didn’t stick to completely. I won’t go into all of the details nor  list every single other adventure, but will instead pick a couple more of them to share:

1.) One day, during my lunch hour I left school to have lunch off-campus and proceeded to go pick up my younger cousin who attended a neighboring high school (I forget why, it might’ve been her birthday). We were running short on time so we went through a drive-thru of a popular lunch-spot (the Golden Ox) near my school. This was the first time I’d gone through that particular drive-thru in the big truck. Of course, I got stuck when trying attempting to exit the drive thru as my truck was too long for the turn. Long story short, I ended up having to do a little “off-roading” by jumping the median/flower garden in the truck. I was able to get my cousin back to her school and also I back to my own school in time for sixth period.  I still can’t believe I didn’t completely mess up the truck’s alignment or anything else.

2.) I eventually did get caught by my dad for driving without permission/a driver’s license once on a Saturday when he and my mother were supposed to be gone for a few hours. I had snuck over to a friend’s house and although I made it back to our house before they did, of course this was the day my dad decided to change the oil on the car that I had taken. The next thing I knew my dad had come storming into our house demanding to know from me why the hood of the car and engine were hot. My dad (like me) rarely gets angry. I’m not exactly sure anymore what the punishment was, or if there really was one, but I did get the lecture of a lifetime– one that would put all of those “afterschool specials” of yore to shame.

I’m pretty sure karma for all of this will come at me in the form of my future children (should I get to or choose to have any). However, I’d like to think I’ll be ready and prepared for antics such as these.  There will be ABSOLUTELY no “midnight laundry sessions” allowed in my household (at least not by anyone under the age of 18 years old).

* May or may not be real name

Photo originally published here.

Look for Part III of IV coming tomorrow as we’ll continue the “Behind the Wheel” Series, with sharing of some more driving adventures.

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