Holli Bragg-022311Listen to Holli Deal Bragg read her column.
My cell phone sang out, letting me know I had a text message. "Sarah passed her driving test!!" a friend crowed.
How many years has it been since I felt the thrill her daughter must have been feeling? Looking back, I think I can still remember the excitement, the pride, the anticipation that having a driver's license meant.
Freedom! For a 16-year-old, being behind the wheel, on your own, whether it was your own car or Dad's, was intoxicating.
It was also a bit frightening. All those other drivers whizzing past, meeting an 18-wheeler loaded with logs on a narrow bridge, taking a hill just a little too fast and feeling the wheels leave the pavement - oh yeah.
In spite of the legal status, teen drivers still lack experience. My Dad taught me everything he could, and it all stuck with me. I hit a dog once because he instilled in me that I should never swerve to avoid hitting an animal- it was better to strike the animal than swerve into an oncoming car's lane.
I hated hitting the dog, which survived, but had I swerved, I would have collided with a dump truck. Good lesson, Dad.
I learned the hard way that driving a low-slung car down a steep embankment with a sandy bottom was not a good idea. I learned when my car made a weird noise, I should not keep driving it. I learned by experience that taking a hill at an unsafe speed made you fly, and it wasn't as much fun as it looks like on Dukes of Hazzard reruns.
I learned you made new friends when you had your own car. I learned the heartache of finding where someone keyed your car out of meanness. I learned what it was like to pay for gasoline and oil, and later, car payments and insurance.
But the freedom! If I had a dollar for every mile of Bulloch County dirt road I explored, my current truck would be paid up. I explored the county, got lost a few times, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent cruising behind the wheel.
My first car was a lemon-chiffon yellow Plymouth Reliant K, four cylinder, and took five minutes after stomping the gas pedal to get a reaction. Dad probably knew more than I thought and intentionally picked the granny-mobile with my safety in mind.
I learned front wheel drive helps when you get stuck on muddy roads, though.
My next car was a Toyota Celica Supra with a sunroof. Oh, I loved that car. It had a six cylinder engine and I was delighted to find it had more OOMPH than the Reliant. It was a much sexier car, sleek and black, and I loved it. I loved it so much that when my brother borrowed it one night and ended up hitting a mailbox, I uttered the very first bad word in the presence of my Dad.
He didn't fuss at me too much. I think he understood.
After a few more cars in my life, I graduated to a truck. Still a six-cylinder, my Dodge Ram gave me my money's worth. My current truck, however, is a Ford F-150 Southern Edition four-wheel drive, and its 5.4 liter Triton engine has more power than I've ever experienced.
I still cruise dirt roads for the fun of it, and believe it or not, there are still plenty of roads in Bulloch and Candler counties that I have yet to plunder.
Driving is a privilege, and I hope my friend's daughter drives safely. We didn't have cell phones when I was a young driver, and I hope all young drivers today realize the danger of texting and driving. All it takes is one second with your eyes off the road, and anything can happen.
I've been fortunate that the only accident I have ever been in was with me as a passenger. Coach Clark Collins and my Dad both taught me to be a defensive driver, and to this day those lessons remain with me as I brave the roads.
I congratulate young Sarah on her new license. She will enjoy the freedom as she drives herself and friends to the movies or to the mall. Her mom will worry and fuss, and pray that her daughter stays safe. Sarah will explore the area in her own fashion, most likely enjoying the exhilarating feeling of rolling down the highway on her own.
It's a pleasure that never lost its charm for me.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.