The Summer of 16



I turned 16 years old in the fall of my sophomore year in High School. A few months prior to the big day, my grandfather drove down from Southern Indiana with a six year old Chevrolet El Camino. It was maroon with a white vinyl top and hub caps. Not the cool El Caminos that you saw at the beach, but I was very grateful to have something other than my mom's car to drive. My brother had turned 18 that Summer, so I could drive to school if he rode with me.

For some unknown reason, he was willing to do it. My first day driving to school did not go so well. As we were preparing to leave, I saw a kid from my class out front of the school in the u-shaped driveway. With my brother's prodding, I pulled up to talk to the kid who began talking trash about my newly acquired ride. He ended his comments by daring me to spin a tire.

Like a foolish kid with something to prove, I took the challenge. I stood on the throttle and spun a tire around the U-shaped drive and out onto the street in front of the school. As we sped past the school, I looked over my shoulder to see the kid's expression. But what I saw instead was the towering figure of the school Principal standing in the arched doorway of the school motionlessly watching my show. A sense of impending doom sank over me.

The next day at school, nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen. That is until 6th period, the final class of the day, metal shop. Ten minutes into the class, the door opened and in walked the Principal. He spoke briefly to the instructor and a couple of students. He then coolly turned to make his way to the door when he stopped beside me and said, "I guess we probably need to talk. Why don't you stop by my office after class." And then without another word, he walked out the door.

My instructor was kind enough to let me go on to the office without having to sit through the rest of class and percolate with the fear of what was my fate. I made my way to the Principal's office. He greeted me and invited me to have a seat. He quickly made his point and concluded that if he ever saw me do something like that again, he would call the city police and let them handle it. Being a know-it-all teenager, my immediate thought was, "like they would do anything". I promised that I would not repeat my performance and thanked him for not taking any further action on the situation.

I was genuinely grateful that he had not called my Dad as I knew I would have gotten licks with a belt and probably had my keys to the El Camino yanked.

I managed to get through the rest of the school year without any major issues related to driving. I got my driver's license the Saturday after my birthday and began driving to school on my own and enjoying the freedom.

As Summer approached, I had dreams of spending the Summer going where I wanted and hanging out with friends. The first Sunday night of the Summer, I left Sunday night's Church service and stopped in the city parking lot to chat with some friends. When the conversation concluded, I remembered I needed to pick up a dish my Mom had sent to Church with me for youth group. So I drove to the end of the parking lot to turn into the alley that led to the Church parking lot. As I turned, I drove through a small bit of sand and barely spun a tire. It was not anything up to my standard for lighting a tire up. It was a small chirp that I thought nothing more about. Halfway down the alley, I suddenly see blue lights in my mirror.

I turned into the Church parking lot and met a very short city cop with an attitude that exceeded his small statue. He quickly informed me that he had been on top of one of the buildings downtown observing the parking lot with binoculars and had observed me spinning tires.

He had me follow him to the City Police station where I called my Dad. Needless to say, he was less than pleased with the situation. The cop wrote me the first traffic ticket of my life, and my Dad told me to drive straight home, pull my car into the backyard, and hang my set of keys up in the kitchen.

When Dad got home, he told me I was grounded from driving for the entire Summer. Just shoot me. He told me I could borrow his bicycle for anywhere I wanted to go.

So, Monday, I got up and wanted to go to the American Legion swimming pool to hang out with my friends. So, swallowing my pride, I grabbed Dad's bike and headed down the street feeling sorry for myself and how humiliating it was to be back on a bicycle.

I did not think for a minute about the fact that Dad's bicycle had long street fenders as opposed to the short fenders the bike I had ridden to elementary and middle school. My only thoughts were how bad the summer would suck not getting to drive. Halfway down our street, I kicked the pedals, yanked the handle bars and stood the bike up in a wheelie like I had done hundreds of times on my old bike. But as I did, the long back fender grabbed the asphalt and I was unloaded before I could think another thought. Clad in a bathing suit and a t-shirt, the asphalt opened both knees and forearms.

I carefully pedalled my bruised ego and bloody body back to the house to clean up by abrasions. My Mom greeted me at the door with minimal sympathy and helped me clean myself up.

It was a tough summer, but I had a lot of opportunity to mature some of my thinking.

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