by Quincey Wesley
I pull up to the McClymonds High School parking lot in my black, Chevy Camaro convertible. I turn the key of the ignition and subdue the roaring engine. I open the trunk and grab my backpack. I am one of only four students who drive their cars to school.
It took initiative to get my driver license at 16 years old. It also took countless hours spent on the Internet learning the basics of driving and the rules of the road. There was no organized, formal driver’s ed.
My older cousin, Anthony, is the main reason why I was determined to get my license. He’s had his since he was 16 — a role model to me.
Living in Vallejo, 20 minutes away, also spurred me to act. There is a car culture there that doesn’t exist in West Oakland. Teens see it as the next step in growing up and for me, it would be a new adventure, giving me freedom, responsibility and respect.
When I started driving I was so nervous that I didn’t drive at the posted speed limit. Drivers angrily passed me at every opportunity. That was how I learned that you could get a ticket for being TOO slow.
There were other challenges. Once, as I pulled out of my driveway, my car spun out of control for three feet after the morning sprinklers drenched the pavement in slippery water.
Then there was my parents’ overprotective nature. I finally had a talk with them about how they didn’t have to be so worried because I was a responsible young man.
Coming back to school after spring break, I finally got the chance to drive to school. I could feel their envious looks and jealous comments which altogether made me feel more special.
After my parents felt safe with my driving, they gave me freedom to do what I pleased, but they had one rule: be in the house by 8 on a school night and 11 on the weekends. It seemed fair. I was an adult. I was independent.
This was a turning point in my life and made me realize what happens in the real world: you got to pay for the stuff that you want. Gas prices, insurance and registration were a new responsibility that I had to take on.