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A Crash Course in Coolness MAG
As a self-proclaimed nerd, there are few times when I have felt “cool.” Being one of the first in my grade to get my license, however, I felt what I could only assume to be the abstract concept of coolness. The weight of my license in my wallet made me stand taller, speak louder, and altogether feel cooler. But this was short-lived.
In the ten days since earning the right to operate a vehicle without parental supervision, I had driven more than the entire time I had my permit. I had grown confident in my abilities, and started to think of myself as a good driver, a concept as foreign to me as coolness. My paranoid mother had driven with me my entire sixteenth year. There's only so much wheel-grabbing, eye-squinting, and invisible brake slamming a new driver can take. This, of course, caused me to avoid driving with her altogether. Unlike so many of my peers who'd beg their parents for opportunities to get behind the wheel, I created excuses. I claimed I had so much homework that I had to do it in the car. This caused my permit year to severely lack practice or instruction. And yet, I still managed to pass one of the most important tests a teen takes. As far as I was concerned, I was awesome.
This bloated sense of confidence led me to pick up my friend from the YMCA not far from my house. She was working backstage on a play, and we had made plans to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee on my DVR. We knew it was nerdy, but we considered it highly entertaining. And so it was settled, I come get her at two, and we would drive to my house to watch the Bee. Nothing could ruin the plan, except my bloated ego.
It was the second time I had driven Mia anywhere. It was supposed to be simple. I was not supposed to hit the blue jeep parked on my left. I was not supposed to get scared by the white car speeding past me as I was reversing. I was not supposed to assume that my tiny car could make the turn. And yet I did. I did all the things I wasn't supposed to, and I hit a car. I hit a car. I hit a car.
After uncharacteristically emitting a slew of curses, I looked at Mia. “I just hit that car!”
Mia nodded a mute reply as I frantically pulled out my cell phone to call my mother.
“Mom! I j-j-just hit a car,” I wailed into my phone.
“You did what?” My mother was barely able to hear me because of the poor cell service. I wanted her with me so badly. Yes, after ten days of feeling grown-up, all I wanted was my mommy. “I'll call your father. He'll be there soon,” she tried to reassure me.
Even though help was on the way, Mia and I were still in the parking lot. And I was beginning to make a scene.
“Are you okay?” I finally asked Mia. She nodded, and we both got out of the car. Outside I could see that the blue jeep was a tank and mine was tin foil in comparison. While its bumper was fine, mine had gotten stuck under their license plate. I made these observations by frantically running around the cars.
I was still feeling incredibly awful when a woman in workout clothes and her daughter walked over. “Are you okay?” she asked in the comforting tone that all mothers seem to have. “Are your parents on their way?”
“Y-yes,” I stammered. I was trying to call my mother again, but I was so anxious that I couldn't even dial correctly.
“I can help,” she said. Taking the phone from me, she explained to my mother what had happened and said that she would stay with me until my dad arrived. This was incredibly thoughtful and kind. Then she called the police for me.
Once the calls were made and we were waiting for everyone to come, the woman told me her daughter's first crash story.
“She had just gotten her license and managed to drive into a tree,” the woman laughed. I tried to smile, but I think that all I did was I show her my teeth. My body felt so numb with guilt that my extremities were not working.
Then my father arrived and proceeded to move my car off the Jeep.
“It's not that bad,” he said as he popped my crushed bumper back into its original shape.
“Dad, just yell at me. I did a bad thing. I hit a car, and I could've hurt Mia. Just punish me,” I begged, sick with guilt.
“Why would I do that?” he asked. “You're clearly beating yourself up already.” Just then, the two boys who owned the Jeep came out of the gym. (The woman in workout clothes had asked the Y to make an announcement, then went to the gym with her daughter. I never learned her name, but I am eternally grateful for her kindness.)
“It's not too bad,” my dad said to the boys. “It's really only that decal.”
“I was getting rid of that decal anyway,” said one. They looked like college students home for the summer.
“You really should relax,” the second one said to me. “I remember when I crashed my car the day I got my license. This – this is nothing,” he chuckled.
When the police officer finally arrived, he asked me to fill out a report, but because the boys and I had already exchanged insurance information, there was nothing to do. The police officer left quickly compared to the time I had spent waiting in the parking lot.
“Turn that frown upside down,” joked the second boy as they drove off.
“Emily,” my dad said, as we prepared to go. “You're going to drive home, okay?”
Even though I didn't want to, I understood why he was making me drive. So I wouldn't be scared to drive again. I definitely didn't feel cool anymore as I pulled out of the parking space. Instead I felt pretty embarrassed.
The truly “cool” people that day were the kind woman who called the police and the two boys who didn't care that their bumper had been bumped. These people and their first crash stories made me realize that simply having a license isn't what makes someone cool.