No Joy Ride This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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You can’t imagine how happy I was when my big one-six birthday finally came. I got my learner’s permit the very next day after passing the easy but lengthy test that is a deterrent only for the completely driving illiterate. One question asked what to do when coming to a stop sign; how basic is that? Yet another asked which is the passing lane. There were a couple of hard questions, but not enough to postpone my rite of passage. After a couple of weeks, they mailed my permit, which displays the worst picture ever taken.

I would have liked to go out driving the day I got my permit but my parents didn’t prove so eager. I spent another week suggesting, “Hey look, the weather is perfect for driving and a great time for me to practice.” I’m not sure what they were worried about, but I’m certain I’ll find out when I have kids at this magical age.

I’d had some experience driving, so I figured I was all set. Even my mother told me I was driving quite well for a first-timer. I was surprised to hear this because the whole time we were on the road, she yelled at me and made comments. After five minutes behind the wheel, I was wondering why I had been so anxious to get myself into this; it wasn’t going to be any joy ride.

I didn’t consider myself a bad driver, but I did realize there was more to learn. My mother’s analysis after three hours of driving time under my belt: I accelerated too fast, braked too quickly, stayed too far to the right and followed cars too closely. After five hours, she had narrowed the list down to driving too fast.

I thought, Driving too fast? How ironic that a person driving too fast would be the one holding up traffic. No matter how slowly I went, my mom still told me to apply the brake. I would, and watched the pile-up of cars in my rear-view mirror grow longer and longer. I found my mother’s tendency to hyperventilate as I drove unnecessary and somewhat distracting. Even on back roads, her heart rate was probably twice the normal. I concluded that the only place I could drive that would allow her any relaxation would be a deserted road in Arizona.

Not wanting to put her (or myself) through this same torture day in and day out, I tried to enlist some new help. Naturally, I turned to my father. Since he’s the laid-back, easy-going type, I figured he’d be ideal. After more thought, I realized my error, recalling that he has a bad heart and short temper, which could be a lethal combination if I made a serious mistake. One day, my mother told me that my grandpa wanted to take me driving, and that he suggested practicing at the cemetery because of the many twists and turns. I heard the word cemetery and remembered my older brother’s little accident that totaled the car. I could only imagine going off the road there and taking out tombstones. Our family would probably never be allowed to be buried there.

Finally, God sent some good fortune my way: my older brother came home to enroll in a local college. He was a perfect candidate for the job; he couldn’t yell at me for simple, honest mistakes, because I knew too well how he drove. How does one crash into a cemetery in the first place?

In the end, they all taught me to drive and I’m glad. My mom would tell me what I was doing, constantly talking and pointing out the obvious. My dad, a little more serious, gave me a taste of how the instructor would act during my road test. It was nice driving with my brother so I could get experience. When it comes down to it, the only way to improve is to have hours of practice. It must be tough to teach a teenager anything since we all suffer from the chronic illness of always being right and knowing everything. Everyone, watch out, another one’s on the road.

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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