As a teenager, taking the keys to your first car is supposed to be a special, life-changing moment that symbolizes some kind of profound, mystical step toward adulthood.


For me, it was a devastating, dream-crushing dose of reality.


As my 16th birthday neared, I recall bombarding my parents with relentless chatter about vehicles.


With many of the older kids roaring around looking cool in brand-new cars and trucks, I had been devising all kinds of clever financial schemes that would put me behind the wheel of a standout ride. Of course, most of my plans involved paying back my parents over the next 25 years or so. …


I was already envisioning myself driving around in a shiny new sports car, enjoying the unlimited freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with whomever I wanted.


As it turned out, the reality my parents had in mind was something entirely different.


I had planned to get my driver’s licence the day I turned 16. My parents made me wait two weeks — and I failed my first try after rolling through a stop sign.


I had planned to go pick up some buddies and drive around town all day. My parents limited me to a half-hour drive around town — by myself.


I had planned to go car shopping for a sporty new car or truck. My parents handed me the keys to a 1981 Malibu Classic, which previously belonged to my grandmother.


The injustice was more than I could bear. All my friends were getting awesome pickup trucks or sports cars and I was stuck with this decrepit old Loser Cruiser. How was I supposed to pick up girls in that?


It had about as much sex appeal as a rocking chair.


After Dad presented me with the option of walking for the next three years, I decided that an unsexy granny car was better than no car at all.


With a few months of driving experience under my belt, my parents started letting me drive to school instead of taking the bus. During class breaks, my friends would pile in and we’d cruise around town with the windows down and the eight-track stereo cranked. The car would later come to be known as The Eight-Track Bomber.


My brother and I installed an obnoxious musical horn, which added even more comic value to the old girl. When people heard La Cucaracha or Yankee Doodle blasting in the driveway, they knew The Bomber had arrived.


Over the next couple of years, we had some amazing times in that car. When we took her to our first teen dance, we got stuck in the mud and had to push in our good clothes. On the way home that night, she overheated and we had to stop at every farmyard along the way to refill the radiator with cold water.


My brother and I stealthily pushed it out of the yard a couple of times to sneak off to parties and/or visit young ladies. And those who were there will never forget that legendary ski trip to Lake Louise in the spring of 2000.


A few years later — after working some character-building summer jobs — I finally got that shiny pickup truck. With a hint of sorrow, I passed The Bomber keys on to my younger brother, who then passed it on to our little sister.


If that car could have talked, all of us kids would have been in some serious caca.


Today, the old car sits behind the grain bins with tall grass growing all around. The windshield is broken, the tires are flat and most of the body panels are dented beyond repair.


Barring some kind of Extreme Car Makeover miracle, The Bomber’s road-trip days are over.


It seems funny to look back on how upset I was at getting stuck with that old Malibu, because when I reflect on my fondest teenage memories, that ugly green car is always there in the background.


Call me a cynic, but whenever I see a 16-year-old kid driving a brand-new vehicle — which is often around here — the first thought that springs to mind is, “What a spoiled brat.”


I suppose my parents could have helped me get a new car when I turned 16 but in retrospect, I’m sure glad they didn’t.


Driving that clunker for a couple years motivated me to work hard and earn the cash to buy a vehicle of my choosing.


But most of all, the experience gave me a much-needed reality check and a serious dose of humility — something all teenagers should be treated to every now and then.


Leo Paré


courtesy of the Red Deer Advocate-