When I was 15 I went faster on land than ever before or since, and I did it more than once. I look back on those days and I marvel at how many of us survived to adulthood.

The time was 1965, the place was Bonita, the gas was cheap, the cars were American, and the drivers were boys.

There was a stretch of narrow, almost straight but slightly hilly road out there, beyond the cemetery and near the country club if I see it right in memory, on which some guys got their cars up to 110, 115. Really. Pedal to the metal and big things starting to vibrate. Trees flashing by in the semi-darkness.

We didn’t wear seatbelts. None of the cars had airbags. None of the parents had a clue.

Most of us lived through it. I moved away and heard later that Mark didn’t. He crashed and burned, but that was partly owing to exposure. He did it much more often than other guys. He lived out there, and his dad was into vehicles. Mark was nice and cute but not very smart.

That was the suburbs. We didn’t have enough to do and we had cars to do it in. We were bound to bump into things.

The sweet thing about raising kids in the city is there’s plenty to do. Not just movies or even youth centers; I remember hearing that my kids were getting night-time fun by running scavenger hunts for exotic ingredients in the 24-hour Safeway. I’m not saying they didn’t take risks, but I don’t think any of them rushed to get drivers’ licenses at 16. They didn’t much need them till they left home.

My kids roamed the streets and rode public transportation. As far as I can tell from talking to other parents, they were substantially safer than suburban teens.

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2 Responses to Speed

  1. Katie A says:

    I got my license when I was 16.

  2. sputterpub says:

    Thanks for reading and helping! I can’t argue with your statement but I’m certain you didn’t go for your license on your 16th birthday, which is what suburban kids did in my time and probably still do. And you had plenty of friends who didn’t drive at 16; I didn’t. Hey, for that matter, I’m sure I’ve traveled faster than 115 on land, but it was in a landing or about-to-lift airplane, which just isn’t the same. I promise that these memories are absolutely honest, but that doesn’t mean they’re accurate…

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