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My car didn’t start the other day because I don’t really drive a lot anymore. I work from home and I am within walking distance of essentials — like Starbucks and a wine store — and so I don’t need to.
My teenage self would probably ask what’s wrong with me because she loved to drive. I would use any excuse to drive anywhere! Groceries? A trip to the bank? Mall? Mailbox? Umm, “Get in, loser, we’re going shopping!”
I learned how to drive on a stick shift and I think that makes me cooler than most drivers on the road. Growing up my mom had a Suzuki Sidekick and it was the only vehicle I was allowed to drive so I had no choice in the matter. My sixteen year old self would probably have a fit knowing that today’s kids have cameras helping them to parallel park and alerting them so they don’t run over a squirrel, basically taking out the hard earned sweat and tears of operating a motorized vehicle; never knowing the legitimate anguish of switching gears while climbing a hill and then having to quickly downshift as you climb down. IYKYK.
Anyway, my driving instructor was a man who was probably younger than I am now with a full beard, long-ish greasy hair and a constant look of overwhelm on his face. He also came with a baby in the backseat. When he picked me up after school for the first time I remember asking if it was appropriate to have a young child along for the ride.
His response: “Why? You’re not going to get into an accident, are you?”
THIS WAS MY FIRST DRIVING LESSON.
The lesson went fine. He fed her cookies, sang her songs, and, to be honest, I think paid more attention to her than he did on me. We didn’t die, so I guess that’s win for both of us.
Eventually my lessons turned into me taking him to places around town where he would run personal errands. One time he disappeared into an unmarked building for a good twenty minutes as I awkwardly stayed in the car with the baby. Looking back, he really got a deal with me — a personal chauffeur and a free babysitter?
Somehow, someway, between the pro bono babysitting and driving this guy to pick up his dry cleaning, I passed my drivers’ test. I was the first one of my friends to get her *full license even though I was the baby of the group.
So now I could drive my us anywhere! A lot of free time was spent taking my mom’s Suzuki for a joy ride for hours at a time, blasting tunes, and going north of our suburban town to the country. This is what I did for fun on the weekends. When I wasn’t writing X-Files scripts or going to the movies I was hitting the open road with a friend like we were Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” (without the drugs and the violence). We liked driving past the homes of our crushes or seeing how far we could get on half a tank of gas because I never had any money on me. You know, really hard core stuff.
I didn’t go to my first real party until I was seventeen. “Real” being used perjoratively and meaning the party was centered around the consumption of alcohol and getting fucked up. Personally, I preferred the formal spring dinner party I had thrown for a friend, which was modeled after an InStyle feature, complete with tiny hors d’oeuvre, fancy napkins, and me strumming a guitar, but hey — that could be my Taurus Moon and my inner Cher Horowitz doing all the talking.
I drove a few of my friends in my mom’s Sidekick into the city where the house party was. I tried Mike’s Hard Lemonade for the first time and wore a pink fuzzy bucket hat FOR THE ENTIRE EVENING because this was 1999, and damnit, we partied like it was. Needless to say, I got drunk for the first time, which is a tricky feeling because it’s like you’re Alice discovering the rabbit hole for the first time and deciding whether or not you want to live in that world as that person for the rest of your life.
My friends and I passed out, woke up, and dashed out to get a greasy breakfast before going home. I realized almost instantly that I was still a little drunk. I was well enough to drive us home and as I stumbled into my house, my mom asked for her keys since she was going out. As I collapsed onto my bed, I heard my mom call out from the front, “My car smells like booze and cigarettes!”
For the record, no one smoked or drank in the Sidekick. The stench was proof of how LIT our pores were.
Surprisingly (but not because I was such a keener of a kid, I mean I wrote stories for FUN) I was still allowed to drive her Sidekick afterwards.
This walk through memory lane is just a long-winded way of me saying…I love driving. And it’s kind of sad that I don’t drive as much anymore. But whenever I do, and I hear Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way,” I am immediately transported to a time where I looked forward to driving a stick shift on an open road of possibilities. Plus, music from high school hits differently — no matter when you attended high school you always think the music from that era is the best. I know my parents think the music from the ‘70s is perfection (my dad still gets choked up over Gino Vannelli for crying out loud). And I can’t help but do the same every time I hear Celine Dion belt out, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”
If you like Y2K songs and need a good playlist to jam out to, here’s one for you to bring back all the memories of midriffs and frosted tips
Comment below — what’s your favourite Y2K/late 90s song? Which song gets you shouting in the car?
*OK, “full license” isn’t exactly true because Ontario (the province where I grew up) has an effed-up graduating licensing program (*cough* cash grab) that has three levels (!!) of licenses of which two (G2 and G) are almost exactly the same. So for the intention of this post, when I was handed my G2 license at seventeen, I was ready to hit the road running. Thank you for listening to my TED Talk on “More Things You Didn’t Know About Canada and Still Don’t Really Need to Know.”