An ode to driving: wrecking and repairing others and myself

After writing about my awkward adventures in cars, all I can say is thank you to my parents who gave me second, third, fourth, fifth . . . need I go on? . . . chances. It took me four or five years to apply the defensive part to my driving, but I did it! My dad drove for 90% of our road trips, and any time our family was driving in one car together. My mom would sit in the front seat. Lauren and I would be in the back seat. My mom is a cautious driver. My dad is an aggressive driver. As happens in parent-child relationships, I inherited their driving skills and their bad habits.

I went to a private high school in Dallas. It wasn’t unusual for students to get brand-new, brand-name cars for their sixteenth birthday. My best friend had a car. My sister or parents drove me to and from school. My best friend was always ready to drive us around for fun.

My sister was a couple years older than me. We went to the same school. My parents bought my sister a red Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible when she got her driver’s license. She proudly drove it to school. Her friends oohed and aahed. At the end of the first week she owned the car, her best friend and I were waiting for her to finish practice. I can’t remember what sport. She played basketball, volleyball, and ran track. Take your pick. We knew her keys were in her locker. While we were waiting, her best friend suggested we take her car for a drive around the parking lot. I gladly agreed. After all, what could happen in the school parking lot? I didn’t have my driver’s license, so her best friend drove. The speed limit on the road by the school was 20 miles per hour at most. Maybe it was 10. On one side of our school campus was the football field, then the middle school and older gym, and our high school and new gym was on the other side. We drove from the high school side to the football field and were heading back to the high school when we hit the traffic from all the parents coming to pick up their kids from practice. The small two-lane road was jammed with cars. We were stopped on the road in front of our old gym. We were waiting for the other cars to drive forward. To our left, on the driver’s side, was the old gym and cars parked in a row front of it. When there was space, the parked cars would reverse out of the parking spaces and onto the road. As we’re waiting for the cars in front of us to move, to our shock and surprise, a large suburban on our driver’s side starts pulling out. Lauren’s car was low to the ground. They continued to back out; we were screaming, throwing our hands up, but it was clear they couldn’t see us. Lauren’s best friend was smacking her hands and pushing with all her might into the middle of the steering wheel to honk the horn. A note to all new drivers: Take note of the placement of the horn. This car was new to us. No sound was happening. The horn, we later found out, was a button on each side of the steering wheel. We flailed our arms, kept hitting the steering wheel hoping to honk the horn, and watched helplessly until we heard a crunch as the suburban backed into the side of my sister’s car. I felt sick. We got out and yelled. One of my coaches opened the door to the suburban. They yelled and angrily asked, “Why didn’t you honk the horn?!” We all calmed down and exchanged information. Well, their insurance had expired. My parents later found out they didn’t have insurance at the time. My coach’s family never paid for the damages. Lauren’s best friend and I learned a hard lesson outside the classroom.

After being traumatized by my own choices, my mom and dad had to force me to drive. I rode with my sister, friends, and my parents. They shuttled me around. As a teenager, I knew I had made a horrible mistake. I should never drive. I would never recover. Lauren would hate me forever. My parents, too. I should probably stay in my room. (Drama queen!) I shouldn’t drive because I would get in a wreck. I remember my dad coming in my room after the accident and asking me if I was going to be okay. I said no. I was going to hide in my room forever. He told me I couldn’t stay scared forever. A meteor could hit us tomorrow. Nope, I felt scared all the time, anyway, I half-joked. Now, I’ll add meteors to my list of reasons to stay in my room in bed. He sighed and laughed as I forced myself to get out of bed and practice driving with him. Shocked and terrified about having an accident, I did not get my license and start driving until I was 17.

My sister went to college when I was junior in high school. In Texas, everything is bigger and spread apart. I needed a car to go to my friend’s houses. She needed a car to get to her classes, across campus, and buy groceries. She took her car with her.

My parents and grandparents knew I needed a car. My grandparents owned a service station. Friends would ask to advertise their cars for sale in front of the shop. My grandpa saw a grey Chrysler 300M for sale in front of their shop and thought, “We found Tiff’s car.” My parents drove us down one weekend to see my grandparents. My grandparents surprised me with the car. She was beautiful. She, like me, had a roomy trunk. My friends joked about it being an old lady car. However, she ran like a dream, had a ton of room, and leather seats. I kept it through college and through my first jobs.

My car covered in a rare Texas “snow”.

Shortly after getting the car, I was alone on a shopping trip to Walmart. I had finished my shopping and was backing out. I’d like to say I was distracted by something meaningful but, to put it simply, I didn’t pay attention, hit the gas, and reversed right into the side of a woman’s car behind me. Oopsy daisy. Cue me crying uncontrollably. The poor woman felt sorry for me but also desperately wanted to make sure I had insurance. I grabbed the copy from my car while having flashbacks of my sister’s car in front of the gym at school. Only this time I had been responsible for hitting her car. At least I had insurance.

I promised myself I would be a better driver, but I was a reckless teenager. I had felt freedom. I wanted to go fast. Speeding down the road, zipping between cars with the windows down and music blaring made me feel alive. I thought I was in control. The cops did not agree. Three speeding tickets later, a judge threatened to take away my license if I didn’t slow down. My mom begged me to slow down. My dad didn’t exactly have a case for telling me not to speed. Third time is a charm, and I wouldn’t get my next ticket for years.

After being gifted my car, the open road was ahead of me. I had freedom. I put the pedal to the metal. My best friend and I dated brothers. One night, I drove us to their house to hang out. It was only my best friend and I in the car. We had the radio blasting. We were laughing and joking. The windows were down to feel the breeze and for fresh air. We had nervous tummies, after all. As I’m pulling into their driveway, I imagine I’m going well above the speed limit of 30 miles per hour. They lived in the country in Forney on an unpaved gravel road. Their driveway was paved. I turned from the road to their driveway. My best friend and I were forced forwards and backwards as we heard BANG BANG. Their driveway had a drainage ditch for water underneath it. I drove slightly in the drainage ditch before running into their concrete driveway. Both tires smacked the concrete. Their dad came out to see about the commotion, grabbed a flashlight, and tried to air up the tires with no luck. I called my mom. She asked if I had been going the speed limit. I lied and said I think so. My parents had my car towed to the mechanic who told them, “She had to be going pretty fast with this amount of damage.” I was busted. So was the car. I popped both tires and broke an axle. Thankfully, my parents had it repaired and returned it to me.

Eventually I slowed down. I slowed a little too much for my dad’s liking. I was cautiously driving five miles above the speed limit on a trip with my dad from Dallas to Austin. My dad joked that we wouldn’t make it to Austin by morning at this rate. He urged me to go faster saying nothing would happen. Nothing would happen to him, but I was a cop magnet. I had flashbacks of the many times I saw blue and red in my rearview mirror. He was right, though. Nothing would happen to him. He rarely got speeding tickets and rarely went the speed limit. He knew to go with the flow of traffic. He didn’t weave recklessly or call attention to himself (unless we were in a real hurry). He didn’t slam on his brakes if he saw a cop; he rolled slowly down. To be fair, he also had a radar detector long before apps like Waze alerted people about cops ahead. I refused to speed up, only going 10 miles above the speed limit. He was used to being in control as the driver. He was understandably frustrated as the passenger. He said it would take us forever to get there. I learned how to be stubborn from him. We were in a stalemate. I wouldn’t budge. I started crying from frustration and anxiety. He felt bad and eased up. We did get to Austin soon enough but not as soon as he would have liked. What a change from my younger years.

My first car on the day I bought her.
Look at that rear end.

The first car I bought was a 2011 Ford Taurus in February of 2015. It had 3,771 miles on it. A family parked the car with a “For Sale” sign at my family’s automotive shop. I still own that car. I love my “old lady” cars. I was driving in my Ford Taurus while I lived in Georgetown with Lauren and Brian. I was driving down Williams Drive, a street that cuts through the center of Georgetown, going the speed limit of 35 mph. Williams Drive is a four-lane road. I was stuck behind a particularly slow-moving vehicle in the right lane, so I hit my turn signal, switched to the left lane, passed them, hit my turn signal again, and moved back to the right lane.

The most unforgiveable, easily avoidable sin when driving is failing to use your turn signal. My brother-in-law made fun of me for using my turn signal to park in their garage. Since high school, my friends and I have joked about it. We throw our hand up, fist in the air, and call them inconsiderate fools as they weaved through lanes or cut in front of us without signaling. We paid attention to blinkers so much, we had a running joke about spastic blinkers. Spastic blinkers are turn signals that would blink at a much faster rate. While normal-paced blinkers were at a dinner party, these guys looked like they were at a rave. My friends and I would rave, throwing our hands in the air, spinning our arms in fast circles around each other, and (attempt to) beat box when we saw spastic blinkers.

Back to the story, I had switched lanes when a pair of red and blue lights illuminated in my rearview and side mirrors. The po-po. I heard the sirens, turned on blinker, and pulled into nearby parking lot. Unlike my younger days, I could honestly say I wasn’t speeding, so I was stumped. My nerves kicked in as I wondered what I would be accused of doing. The cop approached my car and sensed my nerves. “License and registration,” he said, and I shakily handed the documents to him. “Do you know why I pulled you over,” he asked. My face flushed, and my nose started sweating. I still tried to look innocent. “I’m sorry. I don’t,” I responded. He then noticed my shaking hands, eyes darting back and forth, sweaty, red face, and blotchy neck. “You seem nervous,” he said, “Do you have drugs or a weapon in the car?” “No! I don’t. You can search if you want,” I insisted, knowing the most he would find was stale fast-food bags and a pile of receipts. “Okay. Well, you were weaving in an out of traffic without signaling,” he said. I was relieved. A mistake had been made! “Oh, I always use my blinker. The light must be out,” I responded. He looked puzzled, as if he was offended and thought I was blatantly lying to him. “You didn’t use your blinker,” he reiterated. “Okay,” I said not wanting to make the situation worse. “Alright, I’m going to run these. I’ll be back,” he said. He found nothing. He wrote me a ticket. As he made me sign, he said I had a certain number of days to replace my signal light without penalty. I thanked him and drove away. I stopped at the nearest Jiffy Lube and tested my blinkers. Just as I had suspected, a signal light was out! I ranted to my grandma and grandpa who said the Williamson county cops had to be pretty bored to pull me over for a blinker and accuse me of carrying drugs or weapon.

The only time Deaven turns over the wheel to me is when we need to parallel park in a hurry. Something clicked this past year, and I gladly attempt it. Most of the time, I am successful. I still hit the curb a few times. Part of learning is making mistakes; I remind myself over and over and over again.

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