Skrrrrrttttttt. We pulled to the edge of the cul de sac and gravel flew out from beneath the tires. Tired and confused, I watched from the backseat as Natalie, my best friend sitting shotgun, straightened her spine with a face of perplexion. Dan, my friend since middle school, rolled down his driver side window and nonchalantly flashed a friendly smile. There was a car parked parallel to us with hazard lights flashing. The man in the driver’s seat was waving his arms frantically out the window.
I listened as the frazzled man desperately asked Dan for directions to the nearest grocery store. At the time, we mindlessly mistaken his slurred voice for one of simple destress. Dan amicably welcomed the man to follow us, as we were going to be passing the grocery store anyways.
As we turned onto the main road, I reflected on how mature Dan’s helpfulness was. The childish boy who once got detention for launching french fries across the cafeteria was now driving his own car and independently providing assistance to people in need- both signs of adulthood. We were celebrating the upcoming closing of our senior year, and I could not begin to fathom how quickly we were growing up.
My thoughts were disrupted, however, by the wild dancing of headlights behind us. “OH MY GOSH,” I shouted to my friends up front. The man following us was literally driving in the left lane. All of a sudden, the slurring of his language had a whole new meaning. The man was drunk and driving as if he were both blindfolded and unconscious, and to make matters even scarier, his front bumper was becoming ALARMINGLY close to Dan’s car. As Natalie and I became overwhelmed with panic, Dan reassured us that we were almost at the grocery store. “Okay,” I said…”you’re right.”
But as we approached the traffic light next to the grocery store, I realized the turn into my driveway was just a few feet down the road, and I did NOT want that man following me home. Dan rolled down his window and gestured to the man behind us to make a left to get to the grocery store. Then, even though the light was yellow, we accelerated and hardly made it through the intersection, leaving the intoxicated man waiting at the red light. But as I peeked out the back window I realized that….he was NOT turning left. Instead, he sat at the red light, waiting to pursue us once it turned green.
My friends and I quickly contrived a genius plan to hit 65 mph in a 35 zone, and whip into the Perkin’s parking lot in an attempt to lose the man. As we jerked into our parking space, we hoped desperately that the man would not find us. If he did, he would DEFINITELY be angry at our sort of betrayal. But… we were safe in this space, right? Wrong. The man’s car came into our line of sight, and of course, he pulled swiftly into the Perkin’s lot and directly into the space next to us.
Had we been a little older with a little more logic, we likely would have handled this situation in a more rational manner. Although we may have been able to adequately maneuver a car and we were looking just a few weeks forward to our high school graduation, we were by no means prepared to take part in such a risky endeavor. In fact, I vividly remember crawling up into a ball in the backseat feeling scared for my safety.
Dan rolled down his window, and the three of us rattled with apprehension as the man turned to look at us. Though his eyes appeared glossed over and sweat beads were forming on his forehead, he seemed relaxed. “I passed it, didn’t I?,” the man asked. Dan simply nodded as Natalie and I tried our hardest to vanish from sight. Then he thanked us for our time and drove away, leaving my friends and I in a unanimous exhale.
We may not have gotten in any real trouble that night, but the memories engraved in my mind still trouble me regularly. This adventurous evening made me realize that kids grow up way too fast, and in this I believe. Looking back, I realize that we made many mistakes. Firstly, maybe speeding away from the man and driving 65 mph on a local road wasn’t the safest of ideas. And secondly and far more importantly, we permitted a clearly intoxicated man to drive. We witnessed first hand how carelessly he was moving across lanes, and instead of doing anything to stop him from potentially hurting himself and anyone else on the road that night, we panicked and only thought of ourselves.
Far too often, kids feel older than they really are and get involved in dangerous endeavors that they are not prepared to handle, just like my friends and I did that night.