For those of us old enough to remember drinking orange Tang as a kid, the words bring up memories of playing with friends outside for hours on end on hot summer days and then rushing inside to quench our thirst on an ice cold, (slightly grainy tasting) beverage that we’d been convinced through clever advertising, was not only good for us, but tasted good, too. As I was driving over Beverly Glen the other day, I was reminded of that orange drink, a taste I hadn’t thought of in years. The words “Orange Tang” were on a window decal of the car in front of me. I chuckled when I saw it, couldn’t imagine why anyone would have that on their car – maybe it’s the name of a band I’m not hip enough to know about. I looked more carefully at the driver of the BMW. He was 16, if a day, with blond highlights that might have been natural, but probably weren’t…only his stylist would know. But this Justin Bieber wannabieb was weaving in his lane, the car swerving slightly back and forth as he chatted on the phone pressed up to his ear.
I assumed he was driving mom’s or dad’s beemer, on the phone bragging to his friends about the cool ride. Then I remembered, this is L.A. - It was probably his own car to drive over the edge, which he almost did on several occasions. His driving behavior triggered my fears about Nicole starting to drive. She has reminded me several times that she’ll be behind the wheel in five years. I pictured her driving the orange Tang beemer and worried that she might drive as irresponsibly as the kid in front of me.
Some friends of ours with a teenage son who just started driving described with glee how they were eager to buy him a car for his 16th birthday. As first, I couldn’t imagine why they were so excited to plunk down 20k to give their kid yet another tool for self destruction…until they explained their plan. Our friends were going to buy him a car with a standard transmission. He would have to learn to drive by shifting gears so both hands would be too busy doing that to hold a phone, text or check email. As someone who knows, when first starting to drive, having to learn to coordinate your feet and changing gears and steering all at the same time, it’s not easy. Their plan was brilliant and sneaky – they were heroes in their son’s eyes for giving him a car. Little did he know the motive behind it.
I screeched to an abrupt halt to avoid hitting orange Tang, who had stopped short in front of me because he didn’t see that the traffic in front of him had slowed. Nearly avoiding a multi-car pile up caused by this kid in the beemer, the idea of a stick shift became much more attractive. Yes, Nicole would learn to drive stick. There would be plenty of opportunities for her to drive an automatic in her lifetime. Hopefully, by then, she can make better decisions behind the wheel than orange Tang boy. In some ways she already does. And as our friends pointed out – there are several benefits to teaching your kid to drive a stick. Yes, their hands will be too occupied to text, and they’ll be able to drive any car they jump into…just in case they need to make a quick getaway.