January 03, 2009

I was only sixteen


James picked up my wallet a few minutes ago and started going through it. It's interesting to hear how the world appears to a four year old. We had a nice long discussion about my drivers license, he wanted to know if I remembered the day I got it. I told him that I did. Then he asked me if it was on a Monday, I told him that I didn't remember what day of the week it was so he decided it must have been a Friday.

That took me back to the first time I drove my car alone. It was a 1981 Chevrolet Malibu classic. That's not it in the picture, but it is the only picture I could find on the Internet that is closest to the one I had... It was a company car that had been my dad's. I had gotten my license earlier that day and was nervous about driving alone, but wanted to see what would happen. I didn't know my way around as well as I thought I did, so I had to keep track of the many turns I had been making.

I drove for a while, radio on, windows down, enjoying the new found freedom that I had, yet nervous about getting lost. After I had made several turns I was, of course, completely lost. I tried to hide my fear and just enjoy the sights, but it was getting difficult to remain calm. I was a new driver and had no earthly idea where it was that I was at. I wound up on a long straight back road and decided to just see where it came out at, after what seemed hours, I came to the end of the road. Being lost, I just went with it and followed the flow of traffic that was fairly heavy on the road that the one I was on spilled onto to. Everyone else seemed to know where they were going, so I played along.

The nervous feelings grew, and I began to get down right paranoid, as the area I was entering was fairly populated and full of all sorts of people. I recognized nothing, yet had plenty of gas so I just continued on my merry way. The next thing I noticed was that the buildings were getting taller and more frequent. The people were definitely getting scummy looking and the foot traffic had increased. To add to the nervous feelings of impending doom, it started to get dark.

I topped a hill and looked down at a scene straight from a movie. Bars, strip joints, people walking all over, and a huge skyline of city. I had no idea where I was. About half way down the hill I decided to pull into an A & P grocery store and just ask someone where it was I was at, and how to get home. I pulled into the parking lot and noted an enormous amount of traffic, so I just pulled up behind the last car and sat, to wait my turn to find a parking space. I waited for three songs to play through before I moved at all. Then decided that I needed to find a different place for directions, at this pace I would never get home. I pulled out of line and meandered through the parking lot searching for an exit, it was then that I noticed that the line I was in was for people to talk to a group of women standing at the edge of the parking lot... Oh good... As I drove by the line and the group of women, offers for things I had never even heard of were tossed toward me, I still had my windows down... Hey, I was only sixteen. I did, however make mental notes to find out what some of these things were...

I turned into a hotel parking lot. Deciding to ask someone in the office for directions, you had to drive through an archway to get into the parking lot. Once through the arch I was in a smallish lot with rooms all around the perimeter. Most of the room doors were open and women were standing all around, scary looking huge guys were sitting all over the place smoking all sorts of funny smelling things and music was blaring from everywhere. They all looked at me as if I had landed in a ufo. As I did an emergency scan to find a place to turn around, several people approached the car and began to offer me all sorts of things I had never heard of. I was near panic as I made a forty point turn in the middle of the lot with many a "No thank you" flying out the window...

A bit farther down I saw an entrance ramp to the interstate and knew that it would be the best way for me to get back where I belonged, but I still had no idea where I was at. Making a turn in the wrong direction at this point would have been disastrous... So, just under the over pass I made a rash decision and pulled into the first parking lot I came to, a hard left and into the lot. It was a smallish cinder block building with a group of people of various nationalities standing around the door.. I decided to find someone inside that didn't look as if they would cut my throat to ask for directions. I steeled myself and walked through the group and into the building. Inside, I knew that I had made what was surely a fatal mistake. There was a little room, black in color, that you entered into, with a window just to your right. A group of people were standing around talking to a woman inside the window, so naturally I side stepped the group and walked through the doors...

What met me there was a huge room, with head throbbing music, lights, and vast amounts of naked women. I couldn't move... a mixture of fear and interest held me still. After just a couple of seconds, or it could have been a few hours, a huge man ushered me back through the doors, shouting all sorts of things at me, the woman in the window, and the guys around the door. In the parking lot, after he was finished telling me what he thought of me, I understood very little of what he said and was more concerned that my arm would never work again, he let me go and asked what I thought I was doing.. peppered with, "How old are you boy?" I told him that I was looking for directions and that I was sixteen. The blood drained from his face.. Eventually he calmed down, took a few deep breaths and asked where it was I was trying to get to. I told him where I lived and he immediately told me to get on the interstate, head south and I would find the exit for the town I was from. I thanked him, and couldn't help but ask him if I could use the restroom before I left. He laughed and said, "piss by the car kid" and walked off chuckling to himself... Hey, I had to try...

I drove off and found my way onto the interstate, headed in the right direction and enjoyed my first harrowing experience of heavy, fast paced traffic. Yet the panic didn't materialize, I just went with it, my mind racing with the visions it had been opened to for the last few hours. I found the exit for Newnan and went down the ramp. Sitting there waiting on my turn to get on Bullsboro Drive I decided that after all this mess I needed to visit the Waffle house for a comforting bowl of Bert's chili. I spent the next hour sitting there, lost in a meandering haze of naked women, hookers, various smells and strange looking people. I got home and my dad asked me where I had been, it was a bit after midnight. I simply said, "Driving around".. he laughed...

It took some time before all the things I had seen and heard that night were defined for me.. Sitting here now I think about that night and it frightens me.. all the things I saw and did, and how easy it would have been for me to just vanish... I shudder at the thought that Patrick is only two years away from the same age I was then....

8 comments:

boo said...

Oh, how I love your stories! All the strange newness of it all; the dirty, sweaty palmed, nervous, exhilarating freedom of being 16. I don't think I've ever stopped being that sweaty-palmed kid, and some days I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. You survived it all, old man - and Patrick will too. ^_^

Jules said...

Lord help us all...can you imagine Patrick if he found himself in that situation? After he was done being fascinated he might just expire from embarrassment...not from the naked woman or hookers but from being lost. :-) The next year and a half are going to fly by....have to make sure to get him started with directions. Make him tell us which way to go.

The Angry Georgian said...

I would have given anything to end up in that situation on my first night out.

LADY ROOTS said...

Idren Clay,

When you finally publish your book, I will buy a copy and ask you to autograph it for me. A writer who uses word that can actually stir emotions should be published.

You certainly had your Guardian Angels working overtime on your 16th EarthStrong (birthday).

At least when Patrick takes your car for his first "spin around the block", you will have grounded him in love, faith, discipline and decency. Not that your own Father did not do those things for you; just that our world today is filled with more freely expressed evil.

Arm your sons with the truth that allows them to be strong enough to be gentle with those who are weaker than themselves.

Bless Up,
Lady Roots

Junebug said...

Once again I was in that car with you being as scared as you were.
Thanks for the newest adventure of being with you.The best part of the trip was seeing the Newnan exit on the interstate

Patrick said...

I think from now on I'll just walk...

HeartofGoldPlate said...

oh patrick, you always make me laugh.

ucmama said...

This is absolutely hilarious. You're kind of lucky it wasn't even more eye-opening than it was already!