The Open Road This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I pull out of the driveway with great gusto, careening awkwardly onto the road as neighbors run in fright from the latest addition to the driving world. I make it to the stop sign without a problem, and then I put the pedal to the metal as I push my (okay, my mom's) car to my maximum speed to date: 25 m. p. h. I look over at my dad, smiling to reassure him I can drive (his death grip on the dashboard gives away the fact I am not a parent's dream on the road). I smile and wave as a friend drives by, oblivious to the screams of my mother from the back as she tells me "Both hands on the wheel or pull over." "Fine, fine ... I just have to change this song on the radio." Another scream (I can't wait till this six month learner's permit deal is over and I can drive by myself) and finally I settle back into my seat, ready to get down to business. Hands in the proper position, eyes on the road, sitting up straight, I am a driving instructor's dream. I glance over at my father (who is turning grayer by the minute) and know I am an adult's worst enemy: I am a teenage driver.I've only had my learner's permit for about a month, yet already I've figured out one clear fact about driving - it's not as easy as I thought. My entire life, I've sat in the passenger seat (or in the back) screaming at whichever parent was in the driver's seat to change the radio station or do some other task. I never knew how annoying it was. I've learned that corners are not a beginner's best friend and yes, kids actually do run in front of cars (I guess that "Look both ways" rule has been thrown to the wind since I was in little). It's not all about getting where you want to go or maintaining a decent speed so you don't get pulled over. It's about looking both ways 200 times before you pull out of your driveway, staying on your side of the road, and, above all, being responsible for yourself and everyone else around you. Yes, they may stop suddenly at that stop sign, but guess who gets in trouble when you crash into the back of their car? You.I do enjoy driving. It's just not the game I thought it was. I have yet to listen to the radio while cruising the open road. My dad insists it will distract me and, as hard as it is not to listen to music, he's right. My mom won't even drive with me. I suppose she values her life more than my driving skills. As scary as it sounds, I listen to anything they have to tell me. This is the first time in my life I can't get by with an "Uh-oh, I didn't mean to." If I go too fast, I get stopped and my mommy wiping my tears does not make Se"or Policeman say, "Okay, I'll let you off."In the past four weeks, I have had a lovely introduction to the streets of America. Three-year-olds have raced in front of the car, people have almost backed into me coming out of their driveways, girls have walked in the middle of my lane. Then, of course, there are the times I have been passed, given dirty looks, and laughed at by the neighbors, seeing the "kid" coming out of the driveway. I still need to learn the fine art of parking and reverse, but time will bring both into my driving world.Once again, my time has come to exit the driveway. I check the mirrors, buckle the seatbelt, and pray. My dad looks cool as a cucumber (yet I know the terror he is visualizing) and my mom is laughing in the back seat (nervously, mind you). I pop on the blinker and look both ways. All is well, so I pull out, ready for another journey. The neighbors do not run for their houses as they did weeks before. (I guess my skills are just so impressive.) Street after street passes by and I am just one more driver on the road of life. Oops! I went over the curb a little. I get an unsatisfactory sound from the backseat. Ugh! I know the speed limit is 35 m.p.h., but there's someone behind me (That answer does not satisfy my dad.) Well, I still have five months left to figure it all out. Until then, I shall partake in that fine statement "Practice makes perfect." Still, keep a close eye on your rear-view mirror and always make a quick glance into the windows of cars surrounding you. You never know who could be driving that seemingly innocent car. It could be me ... or any other teenage driver. fl


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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