Learning to Drive

When I turned 15 years old, my Mom owned a 1970 ford fairlane 500 army green four door that had to be the most hideous thing I have ever laid eyes on. Only ford motor company could build something so ugly and keep a straight face selling it to the general public. She had bought it second hand and it was in good running order - as good running order as fords get I guess.

1970 ford fairlane 500 - Photo courtesy MSN

This was the beast I took driving lessons from my Pop in on weekends when he was in town.

At the time, U.S. 19 between Camilla and Albany (pronounced Aww Ben EE) was a two lane highway. It has since become four lane divided. One Friday evening, my parents announced that they were going to the Albany Mall which had just recently been constructed and contained a whopping 76 stores.

I saw this as an opportunity to (a) eat tacos at the Mexican restaurant in the mall, (b) get my folks to buy me some new clothes for school, and (c) get some more experience driving. So, with this perspective, I said I wanted to go. My brother was 17 at the time and was focused on being cool and having as little to do hanging out with his Mom and Dad as possible - let alone a little brother. So, he declined.

We loaded up in the puke green fairlane. Me behind the steering wheel of the obscene looking piece of ford engineering, Pop riding shotgun with a King Edwards cigar in the corner of his mouth, and Mom in the backseat.

As we departed town, I had both hands on the wheel and focused on staying in my lane as I met 55 mph traffic coming the other way which included 18 wheel semis. At the time, meeting oncoming big trucks made me a bit nervous, so I focused on staying between the lines and favoring the dew line on the right side of my lane the asphalt.

Several miles north of town as I met a large truck that was heading South. Just as we met, the left front tire of the truck exploded. When the truck tire exploded, I instantly felt something strike the side of the car which gave the car a pretty good shove towards the shoulder of the road. I stiffened my arms to maintain control of the car. Whatever had hit us banged down the entire side of the car. I was so shocked by what had happened, Pop had to tell me to slow down and pull off of the road.

We inspected the damage to the car and then turned around and drove back to where the truck was sitting on the side of the highway with a blown tire.

The truck had spoke wheels like the one in the picture above. These wheels are of multi-piece bolt together construction. When the tire blew, a ring that run around the outside of the wheel separated, and that is what had hit our car. It had hit at the rear passenger door and made a nice long scrape down the side of the car. Fortunately, it did no mechanical damage to the car, and it was still safe to drive. We exchanged insurance information and headed on to the mall.

Once at the mall, Pop headed to a store at the end of the mall while I went clothes shopping. I came out of a dressing room after trying on some clothes and noticed everyone in the store was standing at the store doorway looking out into the mall. When I inquired what was going on, my Mom informed me that there were store employees from another store chasing a shoplifter through the mall. We completed my clothes purchase and proceeded to meet up with Pop.

When we met up with Pop, he seemed breathless. He began telling us that he had been standing near the front of a large department store when he heard a commotion and someone hollering, "Stop him! Stop thief!". He looked up to see several people chasing a man, so me looked down like he was not paying attention. When the shoplifter got about to him, Pop stepped out in front of him and lowered a shoulder. He flipped the shoplifter and dropped him in the middle of the isle way and sat on top of him until Police could take him into custody.

It made for quite an exciting evening. One I have never forgotten. My brother missed a good bit of excitement for a small town.

I continued to drive the ugly puke green ford abomination until I obtained my drivers license and my own automobile. Every time I see a picture like the one above or see a 1970 fairlane rusting in a junkyard, I puke a little bit in the back of my throat and think about the night we went to the Albany Mall.

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