In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Road Fury

1978 Chrysler Fury Magazine Commercial
A few days ago I received a text from my daughter: "I drove myself home!" 
My daughter just recently earned her drivers license and drove herself home from college for the first time. She sounded so happy! For various reasons she didn't get her license until her second year of college. Now, a whole time zone away from me, she is driving. I wished I was there to help her celebrate!

In my home growing up, dad was the designated driving instructor. He was well qualified for two reasons. 1- Experience. At different parts of his life he had many driving jobs such as milkman, ambulance driver, and mailman, and 2- he was dad. Throughout the seasons dad taught me how to drive in rainy weather, mud, snow, high winds and ice. Living in the Pacific Northwest these are important skills to have. You could experience all those road conditions in one outing.

I couldn't wait to drive!  The first weekend I had my learners permit, I begged my dad to take me driving. He chose to give me lessons in our family's used metallic green 78' Plymouth Fury. It was 1983 but the Fury was retro before retro. This "boat on wheels" was bad ass! It had a killer stereo and could fit at least seven to eight people in it, six with seat belts, two could sit comfortably on the back floor; the leg room was outrageous. My brother and I often joked we could carry livestock in it!  My ego was being fed by the shovel full as my hand reached down to adjust the massive 6 foot long front seat forward so I could reach the pedals. I was pretty positive the seat had never been that far forward. I felt invincible in that tank!

On that first day, permit in hand, dad taught me a lesson I'll never forget. As we approached a sharp right turn behind a strip mall off Highway 99, my overconfidence got the best of me. A mischievous grin stretched ear to ear across my face when I read the yellow arrow sign "SLOW 25 mph". I took my foot off the gas and let the cars momentum slow itself down from 35 to 25 in less than a block, cranking the wheel to the right once the speedometer hit "25 mph." The large chrome "bumper-o-fury" crossed the solid yellow line into on-coming traffic, just missing another car. I was proud of myself, and my stunt driver type moves, but I was the only one who was.



Now my dad was a quiet man, full of patience. There were few times growing up when I saw him get angry or yell, just a few, but when he did the heavens shook!

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? THIS IS NOT A GAME!"

The sound waves of his shouting reverberated through my bones, out the left side of my body and out  the Fury's door, my long black hair blowing straight back in the invisible waves!  The steel door vibrated at such a frequency, amplifying each word to unnatural levels that I imagined all insects, small mammals and children under 10 within line of sight of that sound wave instantly dropped to the ground unconscious, stunned!

After I pulled over into the library parking lot per instructions, dad's lecture put the fear of God in me and the seriousness of my actions were made clear. Being the driver of a vehicle is a privilege not a right, and this privilege comes with responsibility. It wasn't a ride at a fair.

My daughter learned how to drive through a drivers class at college. She did it all herself. I'd have to guess that they talk about statistics and gave a ten point lecture on how to drive defensively. I'm sure she is going to make a fine driver, but I must confess, when the roads get hairy and I'm surrounded by idiot drivers, the first thing I think about is respect.  Respect for the rules of the road as I drive my 4000 pounds of metal and the other drivers sitting in theirs.  Without that things could get... well... furious!

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