It was a gorgeous Wednesday evening, I was fifteen, and driving. We were in our ’65 convertible Mustang tooling down Highway 79 on our way into town. The top was down and I relished the wind in my hair and the feeling of almost freedom. Then someone had to come along and ruin it.
He pulled up beside us and matched our speed. He drove an ’80s model Mustang which I’m sure we all can agree is not a real Mustang and also had his top down. He wore mirrored aviator sunglasses and oozed jerkiness. “Wanna race?” He yelled out over the wind.
It wasn’t the first time someone taunted me on the road. That occurred the night mom and I went to TCBY on Madison Street. I can’t remember why we went, but I do remember when we walked to the car because she handed me the keys.
“Really?” I asked.
“But I’ve never driven that far.” It was only a few miles, but still.
“Then I guess this’ll be your first time driving that far.”
“But it’s night. And dark.”
“It usually is at night.”
I nervously got behind the wheel and started home. It was without incident until we turned on our road. Warfield Boulevard was still a two lane road at the time so I flipped on the turn signal and slowed to turn. We had the top down that night as well so I heard every colorful bit of language directed at me. He used some words I’m not sure exist, but I did catch “bad,” “idiotic,” “excuse,” and “driver.” I can only assume he was slightly unhappy with the speed at which I turned. I probably did take the turn more slowly than necessary, but I was scared the entire way home and didn’t want to mess up right at the end.
“Was he talking to me?” I asked my mom.
“Does it matter?”
All that flashed through my mind as I looked at the smug expression on the driver of the not-really-a-Mustang (no I won’t let that go). I accelerated slightly, then remembered I was only fifteen with a learner’s permit and that my mom was in the car. I quickly adjusted and looked straight ahead. I glanced back over when he called out again.
“Catch me if you can!” he laughed as he flashed a set of ridiculously white teeth.
I wanted desperately to gun the engine and give chase. I wanted to have more than a straight six under the hood. I wanted to be older and without a parent so I could just try to race him. That was all for a split-second though (I absolutely hated breaking rules), and I maintained a constant 45 miles per hour.
We came to the hill leading down to the Red River bridge and instinctively slowed down. I was well aware that the speed limit changed to 35 at the bottom of the hill. As the asphalt sloped down, I looked down the road to the gas station where several driver’s stopped after being caught speeding, just in case. I really, really wanted to see him stopped in front of flashing blue lights.
The gas station was empty and there was no squad car there. But right past the gas station there was a police car with flashing blue lights. To my delight, right in front of it sat an ’80s not-really-a-Mustang with a dejected (but somehow still smug looking) driver.
His head snapped up as we drove by (probably because I honked the horn).
“Looks like I won!” I yelled. Just for that moment, I really had.
When you’re driving a classic, you don’ t have to show off!
I think the real lesson here may be about the importance of setting a finish line.