I Brake for Shrubs

I have always been a good driver. Both of my parents taught me to drive, but my Dad is the one who spent more time with me in the car. We'd drive around neighborhoods with wide streets on Saturday mornings in my sister's white Ford Tempo, running errands and such.

The Tempo was barely more than a go-cart itself, which suited me well because that was what I had the most experience driving anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why I drove more with my Dad more than my mom. Maybe it was just one of those things, or maybe it was because my Dad and I had bonded over an experience that took place while I was still in the thick of puberty. The event I speak of was both traumatic and hilarious. It is a story my father and I recount often. it is the story of my first "car" accident.

The accident I speak of took place while we were on a family vacation. During family vacations we would usually pair off. My Mom and sister would spend the day shopping or at the pool, and my Dad and I would play golf.

Mom would drop us off at the golf course and my Dad and I would load our clubs onto the back of a white electric golf cart.

Now there are rules about minors driving golf carts. I'm pretty sure I remember it being that you must be 16 years old to drive the golf cart, and in some places you must have a driver's license.

My Dad has always been very trusting of me. And we both thought that rule was ridiculous. Did they honestly believe that maneuvering a 600 pound plastic lawn mower around a park at 9 miles an hour is exactly the same as going 70 down the highway in a 2,000 pound Buick?

But my father believe in my ability to be responsible and handle such a complex task as knowing the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, and the subtle variances between going forwards, and going in reverse. And besides, he was sitting right besides me. There was no traffic. Was there anything that could really go wrong?

The answer of course, was yes.

We had just finished hitting practice balls at the range, and were going to head over to the putting green for a little practice before we teed off. I asked my Dad if I could drive. Sometimes he would wait until we were out past the first tee box but this day he wasn't worried. Either because I was starting to look older, or because he was relaxed being on vacation. The point is, he let me. Way to go Dad!

So we hopped in and I started along the little path to where I thought the putting green was. Humming along at all but a brisk pace we took the turn around the clubhouse and were approaching a fork in the road. Thinking I knew where to go I started to turn the wheel to the left.

"Left?" I asked my dad, already deep into my turn.

And my normally calm and relaxed father realized my error.


Slightly panicked I yanked the wheel to the right. But golf carts don't come with power steering, so my race car like maneuver was not nearly as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And instead of swerving to the right path we were now set to split the fork and crash into a wooded area.

I would like to take a moment here to tell you a little about my experiences with crashing vehicles up until this point in my life.

While I had driven a golf car before, I had never crashed one. in fact all of my collisions had taken place no on 4 wheels, but on 2. My black 12 speed mountain bike was my primary form of transportation up until I got my license.

I rode that thing with moderate success over potholes, ice patches, and all other manner of obstructions. Once in a while I'd lose control and jump a curb or hit an old lady. But I would brace myself for impact, like all other kids did, by using my hand brakes and taking my feet off the pedals, putting them out in front of me to brace myself for the crash.

So it makes sense that as my father and I headed for a (kind of) high speed collision with a gaggle of shrubs, I didn't step on the brake. No. I instinctively put my legs out in front of me to stop the cart from crashing.

And seeing as I was not Fred Flintstone, this did not work.

Instead we crunched over a plastic bucket which made a horrific sound and we came to a rest firmly embedded in the shrubbery.

"Back up back up!" My Dad said, more embarrassed than angry.

Terrified that we were about to be in serious trouble, I threw the cart into reverse (which actually means I just flipped a switch). It might not have attracted as much attention if it hadn't made the ear piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound when it was put into reverse.

With the cart screaming for attention I punched the gas and we crunched over the bucket again, scraping it along the pavement, the sound even more horrific the second time.

"Go go go!" my Dad said, as I killed the screaming and put it into forward gear. Flooring it, we drove away trying to play it like we had not just crashed a $4,000 machine into a $4 bucket and a beautiful bit of greenery.

We tried to stay out of sight as long as we could, but we had to drive past there to get to the first tee. We passed the scene of the crime shortly thereafter and saw a golf course official inspecting the mutilated bucket and destroyed bush, wondering what moron could have possibly been so incompetent.

My Dad and I both peered over at him raising our eyebrows as if to say, "Oh geez I wonder what could have happened there."

But of course we knew.

My Dad had been my partner in crime. We were both guilty. He would tell me later that he realized the next time I started to make a wrong turn, he would let me continue on instead of trying to correct me halfway through.

And I realized that the real reason they want you to have a license to drive a golf cart is so that you realize the breaks are located inside the cart, and not, as I had thought, in the bottoms of my shoes.

Oh well. Live and learn.