Why Teenagers Should Not Drive
This story happened a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. It is important for the reader to recognize that, at that time (long, long ago), driving around was a recreational activity, not a means to transport from one point to another. Many nights we would go out and drive around in search of some diversion, even if driving was the diversion. How we managed to stay alive through some of these antics, I will never know.
On this particular night we decided to go out like any other night and the normal protocol was for everyone to pile into one car, regardless of how many were in the group. This night was to be different. It was different in two aspects: we had six participants and we had one new driver. Nothing special with the six– hey we piled more than six into the Green Torino many times with no problem. For some odd reason, that night the six decided we needed to be in two cars. (I blame Barends; it had to be his idea.) And of course six divides perfectly into two cars: four in the lead car, two in the chase car.
The most odd and different thing about this night was not six, nor was it two cars. It was that one of the two cars was not the Torino. So, we had a new driver and new car. Now normally the driving for us fell to the older people in our class – Frans, Elmo, and Steve Bange. Younger drivers like Stump and myself had neither the experience nor the car. But tonight, wouldn’t you know it, Stump had the car. The experience would decide itself. On such a rare occasion, we probably decided to let Stump take the wheel, since he rarely had the car. Little did we know that fateful decision would lead to a night of abject horror, comedy, and possibly a Pulitzer Prize, if Elmo submits this story.
What happened is history. The night was cloudy and it had just rained. The streets were filled with puddles, making it a perfect night to race at high speeds through the narrow streets of Camp Hill. Stumpy drove his Dad’s car. With him were Elmo and two others. (I suspect Kehew was one, only because I always suspect Kehew. Even though it couldn’t have been Kehew cause that’s where we were headed.) The others may have been any one of a number of likely suspects. One thing about our group of friends, anyone and everyone was welcome to join, why yes even Dale Radnor. The possibilities of who the last two were endless: Zeke, Dave D, Kolonauski, Jay Judge, Kathy DeGrandi, Steve Bange, or Billy Snyth. (Isn’t it amazing, dear reader, how I remembered all these names without looking them up in the yearbook?). I am certain that one of the lead car riders was not Dale Radnor. Dale drove a blue flake Charger with a thunder sound and I don’t think he ever rode in a car he wasn’t driving.
Anyway, Stump and his three in the lead car, Barends and I in the chase car, that white and wood panel station wagon. With two cars, we’d play a cat-and-mouse game of chase. Tonight in the light rain was no different. (Well, no exception except for the two differences already painstakingly detailed above). As we whipped down Chestnut Street, Frans passed the lead car, and became the leader. (Who was it that said Frans was a born leader?). We zagged from Chestnut to Yale at our usual high rate of speed.
Stump, not wanting to be outdone, stayed with the Barendsmobile. I could see his headlights swing behind us, the car drifting slightly. As you passed in front of Judy McBride’s house, Frans punched the turn down the far side of Deanhurst Avenue. Deanhurst was split, one way on the far side, and one way going back on the near side. We traveled about half a block with Frans looking at the headlights in his rearview mirror all the time. Stump was trying to close the distance on the turn, drive it hard like Frans had.
Frans matter of factly noted, “He’s not going to make it.” I looked through the way back window. Sure enough, Stump fishtailed the turn, first far to the right, back and then over compensating again to the right, slamming into a car parked quietly at the curb. It seemed an inevitable conclusion, ah, collision.
Within seconds, Stump stopped, hopped out and surveyed the damage. Frans had pulled off slightly ahead and threw the wagon into park. He jumped out and ran back to see if everyone was ok. (Did he not know that we were unbreakable?) Stumpy then calmly walked to the house, calmly rang the doorbell, and calmly asking the people in the house, if that was their car, at the curb there, and if it was theirs, then that his car, actually his dad’s car, had hit their car and he, Stump, was sorry. Several hours later (more likely ten minutes) Stump had calmly exchanged insurance information and we were back on our way.
I recall the parked car survived with not even a scratch on it, but Stump’s car now sported a large dent in the rear panel, just past the door. Two things strike me in remembering this story: The experienced driver flew around the curve, hydroplaned, and still missed every obstacle, but the inexperienced driver keep everyone safe and the damage to a minimum. It was Stump’s maturity, how he calmly and responsibly handled things that was most impressive. I’m not so sure I would have fared as well, had I been driving. And yet, the ironic and unfortunate end of this story is that, although Stump never got to drive the car again, the place had earned a name and to this day that turn is known as “Stumps Corner.” Try it in the rain.