A stroll down memory lane to the time when I had a brand new driver’s licence I happened to borrow my dad’s ute to take a girlfriend home… and well, the trip didn’t go as planned.
First of all – no jokes about female drivers please. I know sometimes we can be overcautious (as I can be) but gender has no weight on someone’s driving skill. I should know, my Mum was a rally car driver.
Picture this – Sicily 1949… sorry, I just caught an episode of ‘Golden Girls’ and couldn’t resist. Anyhow, the year was in the late 80’s. I had big hair, cut-off acid wash jeans, legwarmers and a hypercolour t-shirt. And I looked narly! At that time I lived in Alice Springs, a small desert town smack bang in the middle of Australia. In other words: Satan’s armpit.
My best friend and I were 16 going on 23; and after spending most of the day inside watching movies (the type you had to hire from a video store and watch on a VCR) due to an unseasonal summer shower, it was time to end our girlie hang out and get her home. I’d not long had my driver’s license and yet to buy my own car, but my parents usually let me borrow the family car. But this time it was unavailable, and the only thing free was my dad’s ute. A small maroon V8 flatbed truck. I really didn’t want to be seen driving it at that age – it was ugly.
But hey – it was a set of wheels – which meant freedom… and beggars can’t be choosers.
This thing gurgled and grumbled like a vintage airplane. We prayed no-one we knew would spot us in this bogan muscle car. So, off we ventured on the wet roads to the other side of town, taking the back streets with Bananarama blearing out of the tape deck. Yay! ‘Venus!’
It was pretty uneventful for half of the trip. I was freaking out a little, because the auto was bigger than I was used to, and smelled like stale boy and cigarette smoke. But at least it was an automatic, no embarrassing struggles trying to change gears. Given this was a column shift, the shift lever stuck out of the steering wheel column. Gah! End me now!
The only issue was that the accelerator pedal was a touch sensitive.
And a touch is all it took to send us rocketing down the street, pushing our bodies into the back of the bench seat. As if we were about to leave the atmosphere on a quick jaunt to the International Space Station.
And that’s exactly what happened after I pulled to a stop sign, seeing the roads clear, went to turn a corner… and we suddenly found ourselves in a world of blurred landscapes, teenage screams and screeching tyres.
A wet road and a monster of a truck aren’t a good mix…
What happened next was a collage of permed hair and hooped earrings flapping in the breeze as the car skidded across the road, turning one and a half times, jolting to a stop on the other side of the road facing the wrong way. And off to the side of the road a large dirt storm gutter decorated with metal star pickets.
Thank goodness for deserted small towns. And that the car stopped at the curb. Unscratched, still rumbling like a leopard with a cold.
I swear my girlfriend needed to buy a new pair of nickers. I just about soiled myself. This whole event cemented the hatred we had for supped-up muscled cars even more. They were a death trap waiting to happen.
The weird thing was, when the car hurtled from the place I’d stopped at the intersection, we squealed. And after a momentary shriek we fell silent, mesmerised by the suburb sliding across the windshield. We stared at each other with pale faces and a look that said everything – ‘what the frig was that?’
Driving lessons from my Mum had kicked in, I’d lifted my feet from the pedals and turned into the spin without thinking… Love you Mum!!
It could have been so much worse. We could have crashed and died. I think my handling of heavy machinery is also the reason that my partner never lets my mow the lawns, or pick up an axe… it will inevitably end in some weird mishap. Like the time I was digging a hole and broke a window; or the time I was using a belt sander and knocked down the neighbour’s fence. I have a knack for setting off a chain of events to disastrous results.
Consequently, 16 year old me never told my parents of my driving incident for fear of getting my driving privileges revoked. Because at that age, driving is EVERYTHING. It elevates your status and makes you cool. And in the 80’s wasn’t everything cool?
Today – I’m a much better driver. Really. I am. Though the atrociously permed hair is gone, my bestie and I still catch up and reminisce over our teen adventures in an outback town. Oh, remind me to tell you the one about how we were pulled on the side of the road so our friend could pee in the bushes and the cops showed up… that was fun.
Till the next trip down memory lane, Happy reading and get to writing that next best seller 🙂
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