Saturday, November 1, 2014

T Minus Nine Days

I've always been a compulsive rule follower thanks to my OCD. As a child, I could never hit my brother without shouting "Sorry!" after. Or before. Or during. In sixth grade, I threatened to tell on my friend Aubrey for picking up a handful of rocks on the playground. That was against the rules. Sure, the "don't touch rocks" rule just meant we couldn't throw rocks at each other. But I couldn't see beyond the letter of the law.
I had this idea that all rules were moral rules and picking up a handful of gravel could pave a highway to Hell. Thankfully, I became a teenager. A healthy dose of rebellion beat back the OCD. I learned to tell lies, like saying a story happened "the other day" instead of "back in March", or that it happened to "my friend" instead of  "my cousin's boyfriend's sister".
Then I turned fifteen. I was eligible to get a learner's permit, but I didn't dare get it before reading the driver's manual cover to cover several times. When I hit the road I made sure I never ran a stop sign, changed lanes less than 100 feet before an intersection, or went 41 miles in a 40 zone. I've heard horror stories from classmates who got pulled over for driving two miles faster than the speed limit. I knew my age made me vulnerable, and besides, rules are rules.
After two weeks, I realized everyone drives 45 or 50 in school zones.'
After three months, I trusted myself enough to change radio stations while driving, even if it meant taking my eyes off the road.
Today, aka thirteen months after being licensed, I told my friend Vanessa I'd watch a movie with her at 3:00 P.M. At 2:54, my pocket buzzed. I knew it was her asking when I planned to show up. I didn't look at it. Since I'm a teenager, the law requires me to pull over before turning on my phone, while adults just can't send a text.
Then I realized I'll be eighteen in nine days. I'll have maybe three hours worth of additional driving experience in nine days. But I'll still be the same kind of driver. That's what matters. What doesn't matter is this societal idea that an eighteen year old is competent enough to glance at a phone while operating a motor vehicle.
Still, I pulled into some random neighborhood and parked my car before I dared look at it. When I got back onto the forty mile an hour road, I was surrounded by adults drivers going fifty. In the rain. That's when I snapped.
I'm done. Sometimes I have to check the time while I'm driving to school because my phone's synced with the school clock and my car isn't. Sometimes I  have to call my mom for directions while I'm behind the wheel. And those breaks in the lines? The ones that mean it's okay to get into the turning lane? They're never 100 feet away.
I won't say I'm a better driver than most adults. They have experience on their side. But I am safer. More cautious. Law abiding. Why don't we focus more on enforcing existing driving laws instead of dreaming up new ones to cripple teenagers?