16 March 2013

Driving ovesized

It ruled. Really.
One of the defining rites of passage for the American teenager is getting a drivers license. We've been through it four times now with our three children (thank you, Connecticutistan and the Dear Leaders who rule here for making the Boy start all over again behind the Nutmeg Curtain). Based on the number of the Boy's friends who don't have licenses, I'm wondering if the allure of a license is not nearly as strong as it was more than thirty years ago when I was pining to drive.

I could not WAIT to get behind the wheel and drive. When I was at the point where I could learn to drive, like any good LDS family, in spite of only having three children, we had a Chevrolet Suburban. This 1979 model was bright yellow (so it could match the boat it pulled since my mom's inclination to have theme for everything extended itself way beyond parties) and it sat nine in three benches that were much like the benches that we sat in at church. With its built-in 8-track tape player and metal tinting (yes, metal tinting, you could cut yourself on it), it was awesome.

It was as daunting as it was exciting the first time I got behind the wheel of that leviathan. Remember, puberty came late for me and I was tipping the scales at about 120 dorkish pounds, three of which included the weight of my excessively thick eyeglasses that turned dark in the sun in yet another misguided attempt at trying to be cool, so taking control of a few tons of American-made metal was terrifying. The steering wheel seemed like it belonged on the bridge of a cruise ship instead of my scrawny hands. This is pretty much what I was trying to control:
On the bridge of the U.S.S. Suburban
Once I started driving this land yacht, the terror morphed into exuberance as I realized I was commanding what was essentially a land-based aircraft carrier. I got pretty adept at parking it, or rather, I got adept at disregarding the lines in which one would normally park and learned to just park it where I felt appropriate. My buddies and I had fun taking it to the river. It was the preferred mode of transportation to Stake Dances. I was always amazed how a nine-passenger SUV could accommodate 14 or 15 people with ease. Those were good, good times.

That experience imbued in me a desire to always want to drive a bigger car/ SUV. I liked the irrational confidence it gave me as a new driver but practicality had to take center stage as grew up. I got close a few years ago when I had my 4Runner as my non-commuter car when we lived in SoCal. But today, when I parked the Yukon next to a non-descript Kia, I just smiled. I was 16 again there for a second thinking this big chunk of metal I'm driving could mow over that little car and no one would be the wiser. Fortunately, I'm arguably a whole lot wiser now, so I settled in, turned on the 80's station on the XM and thought about how fun it was to learn to drive in a land yacht. And that it ain't all bad driving a smaller version of one now, thirty plus years later.

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