My first car was a used 1974 Camaro LT.
It was a beauty with a 350 engine and a four-barrel carburetor that in unison made this impressive high-powered varoom sound when you jammed the accelerator to the floor. It had a deep blue metallic paint job with a black rap top.
It was actually my mom's car but she allowed me to buy it for $2,000. It was a way-too-reduced price only because my mother had a soft heart to please her boys. I made $200 per month payments to her for it but I remember balking at her request to pay some rent to live at home after I graduated high school. I had my Camaro and college expenses for which to pay so I held down a crappy job in Foster Farms chicken houses. I got the job because my uncle was the ranch foreman. Some farmers have told me today that few "white" boys would take such a job today because they think they are too good for that kind of work. How sad is that?
But still, no parent "gave" me a car like some parents do and totally spoil their kids.
Most males my age would not have handled a Camaro so well. It was too powerful for a teen with raging testosterone. I recall wondering how fast I could get it to go, so with my friend Robert Feemster aboard, I took it to Santa Fe Avenue north of Parker Road, east of what is now the Amtrak station, and opened it up. I was needling past 100 mph by the time Milnes Road quickly jetted into view and I barely made the stop sign.
That was my last time doing that. I realized how stupid it was. But other speeding tickets would follow.
I'm convinced that few young males really understand anything about life, let alone driving. They think they know it all, but when you get to 52 and look back you ask what can they really know? They only know what they've been told by someone else. They're often rash, cocky and lack judgment. Teens who do think with level heads can suffer the consequences of not having enough experience from which to learn to avoid dangerous behavior. It's the age old "catch 22" where experience is a great teacher but the only way to learn is by living which can often be stopped dead in its track but not having that experience.
It's too bad we can't get inside the heads of teens and get them to see life with adult eyes. It's too bad we can't make them see that video-gaming doesn't earn a paycheck nor put a roof over your head. It's too bad that we can't teach that momentary stupid decisions can affect an entire lifetime.
Stupid things like Senior Ditch Day. It may be tradition but it's just a stupid practice. I mean, wait until Saturday or Sunday - or summer vacation - to relax at a lake.
Ceres High's senior ditch day was Friday, May 9. A bunch of seniors headed eastbound on Highway 132 and got involved in a rear-end collision involving three vehicles. Fortunately there were no serious injuries but cars were damaged and the incident marred the end of a high school experience.
Things didn't turn out so nice on May 5, 2006 when two Turlock High School students in a mad-dash to a ditch day activity at a local lake were killed. Adrian Valladolid, 15, and Javier Martinez, 16, died when their car went around a crossing arm at Hatch Road and Santa Fe Avenue and were hit by a northbound Amtrak train.
A month after I graduated from high school - which would be 35 years ago next month - one fellow graduate died in a grinding two-car crash in Tuolumne County. Three Oakdale kids were killed in one car - with the drunk driver surviving - and five died in the other car. It was one of the worst fatalities in Tuolumne County history.
Young people are killed every day in cars. I also remember seeing a young woman about 22 years of age, sitting dead on Central Avenue behind the wheel of her new car because she unwisely decided to pass a truck on a curve. But senior ditch day often involves carpools where there's speed and leap-frogging and all kinds of stupid and unsafe moves designed to impress others.
Anyone who rebuffs a hard line stance at Senior Ditch Day by defending it as only kids having a little fun needs to be reminded that the Waterford area crash had the potential to plunge the entire community of Ceres into deep mourning.
Next year parents need to keep tabs on what their kids are doing and when next May rolls around - every Friday in May should be suspect as "the" day - and advise their kids to stay in school where they belong.
I always told my kids to "drive like your life depends on it - because it does." That's advice all of us need to keep in mind.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org.