By Jim Hanna
Many of today's teens don't want to drive? Whaaat? On my 16th birthday, my mother's gift to me was taking me out to the NC Highway Patrol station first thing in the morning. I passed the test easily because I'd been taking it in my dreams for about a decade. I also had a lot of practical behind-the-wheel experience thanks to seat time in the family wagon, a '68 Mercury Montego with all four fenders already altered by my two older sisters. I immediately bought my own car, a 1966 Plymouth Belvedere 2-door, 273 V/8, 3-speed, no front bumper, $250.00. That car was my world. The race was immediately on to see what would burn out first, the rear tires, or the clutch… The Clutch.
Driving meant independence and freedom and, I have to say, self-expression. Mastering a machine is a very empowering experience for an awkward teen who has been unable to master anything else up to that point. Owning a car meant financial responsibility and mechanical education, both very helpful in piercing the thick fog of teen anxiety. Maybe things aren't really all that different. Instead of cars, teenagers have iPads and smartphones that confront them with financial and technical challenges, and provide them with a format for expression and a vehicle of freedom and independence -- if mom will give them a ride to Best Buy.
What did driving mean to you as a teen?