COLUMN: The ‘freedom’ of four wheels

When you’re 16 or 17, how do you spell freedom? C-A-R. When you are a parent of same, how do you spell inconvenience and worry?

When you’re 16 or 17, how do you spell freedom?

C-A-R.

When you are a parent of same, how do you spell inconvenience and worry?

See above.

I was prompted to think about this the other day when picking up my daughter and her friend from volleyball practice.

Her friend’s mom also hitched a ride, since she was without a vehicle. Seems her son is now a driver.

And as with many things in life, what is an advantage for one is a disadvantage for another. In this case, he gets wheels … and his mom goes without.

She said it was actually a plus, occasionally, since he could do the taxi thing for his sister, and other errands.

This time next year, my daughter will be tantalizingly close to that magic age of 16, and soon after, little doubt, a driving test.

Teens have it a lot tougher nowadays, what with all the restrictions on licensing. The ‘freedom’ is initially rather limited.

Compared to today’s rules, my entry into the world of wheels almost 40 years ago was a slamdunk.

Pass the tests, and that was it, you were a driver. No L’s or N’s, or supervision.

Just bring home the paperwork, and beg for the keys to the family car.

And woe betide your sorry keister if you did something as stupid as the young drivers in the story elsewhere on these pages, who got their cars impounded after getting caught excessively speeding, or smoking the tires.

Eventually, constantly borrowing the family car convinced my dad that I ought to have one of my own.

It was a Datsun 710.

White, with a gawdawful red stripe along both sides – no other vehicle like it in all of Abbotsford (maybe all of Canada).

I now suspect he chose that car because if I did something idiotic with it, everyone would instantly know who the idiot was.

So me and idiocy were pretty much strangers, at least with driving, anyway…

That and the fact that it’s pretty hard to go street racing with an anemic four-cylinder that would be hard-pressed to do 100 kilometres per hour downhill with a stiff tail wind.

Apart from the financial realities, I figure dad chose that car for those reasons, too.

But hey, it was a set of reliable wheels. A cheap tape deck and a couple of homemade speakers made recognizable noise, and life was very good.

I could finally spell freedom, and so could my friends.

A one-passenger-only rule would have been a major bummer, since few of my buddies had a car.

I was the guy with the ride, Clyde.

Concerts, movies, visiting, cruising, and parking. Oh yeah, the parking…. (And I don’t mean next to a meter).

After graduation, the little Datsun was the packed-to-the-gunnels “crew truck” for four of us on a government grant clearing hiking trails in the Chilliwack Valley, where we lived in a youth hostel.

It was one of the best summers of my teen years, impossible without the car, and an unrestricted driver’s licence.

So, I do appreciate the frustration of new – mostly teen – drivers, who face all sorts of licensing hurdles I didn’t experience.

But then the dad side of me kicks in, and I think of my girl, who will soon be of driving age, as well as riding around in friends’ cars.

If those tougher rules keep her safer, and improve the driving behaviour of other teens behind the steering wheels of often ridiculously over-powered cars, then that’s a fine thing.

And in due course, maybe I’ll start looking for a 1975 Datsun in decent shape – a white one, with a big red stripe on the sides.

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