What is driving to a 15 or 16 year old? It’s a rite of passage. It’s growing up. It’s freedom.
Z is about to do his final test for his driver’s license and I’ve never seen a boy be so motivated by going to driving school, learning the rules of the road, learning the responsibilities of operating a vehicle. He knows his stuff and I feel safe riding along with him. He has weathered the stress of driving in a car with a family full of stressed adults. He is ready.
I remember when I first started driving. You’d take the keys for any excuse to get out of the house and to get out on your own. You need milk or eggs from the grocery store? I’m your man Ma and Pa Swinn. The car above is a 1987 Toyota Supra owned by one Diane Daigh, my aunt, and lo and behold, she would let me borrow it a few times. I never got stopped in my Ford Pinto hatchback driving around town but on a way to a date, senior year in High School, I got stopped in the Supra. That car could move. It was power, intoxicating freedom.
Yeah, above, that was my first car. Not an actual picture of my first car but you get the picture. I didn’t care if it was the Supra or the Pinto (the same car Ralph Nader made his fame with Unsafe at Any Speed as it had this bad habit of exploding if hit from behind). I survived it and even tricked it out with a Ford decal along the top window and used to carry the boom box around in the car so I could listen to Prince, U2, R.E.M, The Fixx, Simple Minds…whatever music I wanted to because driving was freedom. It was growing up.
I think no one captures that feeling of freedom that driving brings better than the Boss. Born to Run, Thunder Road, Cadillac Ranch, Jungleland, so many… but mostly Thunder Road. I sang that song to my kids at bedtime. I was surprised one time when I stopped singing and C was able to sing the whole song by himself. This might have been at age 4 or 5. We should have seen it coming with music and that boy. Sure there are other great driving songs, Rearview Mirror and MFC by Pearl Jam, Rush’s Red Barchetta, and Prince’s Little Red Corvette (scratch that…not a song about driving), but by my ears and soul, the Boss does it best.
You can hide beneath your covers and study your pain,
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain,
Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.
Well now I’m no hero, that’s understood.
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood.
With a chance to make it good somehow,
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair,
Well the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere.
We got one last chance to make it real,
To trade in these wings on some wheels,
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting down on the tracks.
Oh come take my hand,
Riding out tonight to case the promised land.
Oh Thunder Road.
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late, we can make it if we run.
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road
So buckle up, escape, drive, just drive. The teens got the keys and freedom is waiting on Thunder Road.