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PARKER: A joy ride from the wrong side

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
May 20, 2014 - 7:05 AM

When I turned 14, I wrote a 730-day countdown to my sweet 16. It wasn’t that I was expecting anything special to happen for me — this was long before MTV started that craze — it’s just that I knew my life was about to change for the better.

The day of my 16th birthday I would, finally, be eligible to get my driver’s licence. 

My parents fully supported this idea. It meant they were able to free themselves of obligatory chauffeuring responsibilities, but I had different plans. Getting my driver’s licence meant I would have my very own portable kissing booth — and I’d be able to put it to use after sneaking out at 2 a.m.

Of course, we all learn quite quickly that making out in vehicles is more of a hassle than anything else and getting caught stealing your parents' car is just about the worst thing that can happen to a teenager, so the car gradually became less of a rebellious object and more of a purposeful one. 

It began to see use as an escape method — a way to flee the towns we grew up in and discover ones we felt must be better. Something about the sunset in the rear-view mirror and the road in front made us feel all liberated and metaphorical. 

Most of us grew out of the desire to waste hundreds of dollars on gas to fuel this feeling of liberation and enlightenment and turned to things like Burning Man and weird dance music (welcome to adolescence in B.C., amiright?), but some of us didn’t. 

Some of us chose to stick with the joy ride — zero to 60 in as few seconds as your Pontiac Sunfire could manage, burning clutches like CDs with back seats full of empty Red Bull cans and yesterday’s clothing.

We all have our different joy ride routines — the 7-Eleven stop where we buy chewing tobacco or Sour Patch Kids (both perhaps?), the volume adjustment (maximum) or the level of road rage (maximum). One thing remains the same, though: Without question, we feel good.

But, what happens when the things that make us feel good change? 

My aunt sat there clutching her lap, pumping the imaginary brake pedal as I kept forgetting to look right instead of left while zipping through Scotland’s roundabouts. 

“You’re doing just fine,” she said over top of BBC’s classical music station. “Just fine....”

I wasn’t killing us. I think that’s what she meant. The extent to which I was doing “just fine” was about as fine as I’m doing when I say “it’s fine” to my boyfriend after he walks out of the house in basketball shorts. I was not doing just fine.

Shifting with my left hand, sitting on the right-hand side, driving along things called “double carriageways” — this was not your average joy ride. Not even Mozart could calm us down. 
I had coerced my aunt into putting my name on the car rental for an additional £12 a day for the sole purpose of setting up this very moment. I had no choice but to go for it.

Two nights earlier, my grandmother — with whom I'm currently travelling around the U.K. — pulled me aside to tell me it wasn’t a smart idea to go tooting around a foreign country on my own in a brand-new vehicle. I told her I would “obviously” practise first.

This was my practice.

“Look to the right, to the right!” My aunt was speaking urgently in her cool British accent (saying something urgently is as close to screeching as a classy lady gets) as I passed through yet another village during rush hour.

We made it home in one piece, eventually, at which point my aunt told my petrified grandmother I had done “quite well.”

“In fact,” she said, “can you go pick the kids up from school?”

I grinned. A joy ride is still a joy ride, even on the left. 

— Andria is a twenty-something blogger living in Kamloops with her 100 pairs of heels and 200 paperback Penguin Classics.

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