On my commute home today, I see the flashing lights of police and fire vehicles up ahead and think What now? It’s always something when I’m on my way home. As I drive through the gaper’s delay, I see the damaged car, I see the teenage boy, and I see the boy’s face. I recognize that face. Fear is written there; a fear not of potential bodily harm, but of the impending ticket and face to face with Dad.
I remember a similar day. I was 16 and it was my first night out with Dad’s pickup. Everything was in place for me to have a real cool night, riding around the town. With new wheels and tires, the old pickup didn’t look too bad. I had just mounted a new Craig 8-track stereo under the dash, so even if I rode around all night and didn’t encounter a single soul, I at least had a great night of music ahead of me.
My first stop was the Quik Trip, located a few blocks from the house. The weather was cool, and a light drizzle made visibility less than ideal. As I was pulling into a parking spot, some other guy was pulling out, and I guess he didn’t see me and he ended up putting a nice scratch on the side of the truck. I thought Great! But it’s not my fault. I realize that there are few guilty men in prison, but it truly wasn’t my fault.
After exchanging insurance information, we determined the damage to be inconsequential, and the guy got in his car and drove off. Standing there in the rain, staring at the scratch on the side of Dad’s truck, I was presented with a dilemma. Did I drive back to the house and face Dad’s wrath and the grounding that was sure to follow, or go ahead and continue my riding around plans and wait to tell Dad the next morning. As I often did during my teenage years, I chose the incorrect option, and learned a couple of valuable lessons along the way. First, the right thing to do is often the most difficult and one that you’re usually not inclined to do, and the consequences of delaying a forthcoming punishment are often more painful in the end. The other lesson? I learned that riding around all night listening to my favorite tunes isn’t near as fun when accompanied by a guilty conscience.
After driving through the accident mess and typing this story onto my phone with my right thumb (you do see the irony here don’t you?), I begin to wonder what had caused this careless teenager to rear end the vehicle in front of him. Was he texting his new girl friend? Or just texting a friend? Or perhaps he was pre-occupied with his stereo, moving the dial-up and down in search of the perfect hip-hop tune. Or maybe he was attempting to see how fast he could accelerate down the two lane road, racing from one driveway to the next. Only he knows for sure.
I did wonder one other thing. Would this boy, under the intense scrutiny of his father’s inquisition, use for his defense the time-honored explanation, “But Dad, it wasn’t my fault!” I have some advice for you son. Don’t try it.