To drive or not to drive

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Along with identifying as “Swifties,” ignoring the reported Chinese threat of bad dancing posed by TikTok, and pretending that plant-based meat is actually edible, many young people in America are engaging in another fascinating trend – not driving.

According to recent surveys, around 20% fewer teens of driving age are getting their driver’s licenses as compared to the glorious 1980s. Much to the relief of my insurance premiums, our youngest daughter, who recently turned 16, is one of these vehicular agnostics.

Speaking of the 1980s, the nanosecond I turned 16, I raced like a scalded ape (wearing embarrassingly snug Ocean Pacific shorts) to the local DPS office for my license. I then warted my dad until he took me to a used car lot to pick up the coolest vehicle ever to leak antifreeze into the front passenger floorboard – a sleek, black 1985 Oldsmobile Calais. Yes, I literally drove it until it bled to death.

My two older daughters were also enthusiastic to begin testing our credit limits as soon as they were eligible to drive. We bought both of them very nice pre-owned Nissans, which have become grave threats to street curbs and parking blocks throughout the State of Texas. They also have developed acute phobias of car washes, and they only clean their vehicles when I threaten to curtail their Starbucks privileges.

In my effort to afford my daughters the responsibility of soiling their own vehicles, I continue to drive what could once have been described as a 2013 Ford Expedition. Having apparently reached its self-destruct date, it has now become little more than a chronic loiterer in auto service departments – held together with road tar and melted gummi bears. Instead of striking fear into my heart, the warm glow of the check-engine light is almost comforting – because I know that at least something on the vehicle still works properly.

When I first took my reluctant youngest daughter out to see what it was like to sit behind the wheel, I did my best to create a non-threatening experience for her. I chose an empty Baptist church parking lot for our practice session, praying that the Lord would bless our time together and that there wouldn’t be an impromptu covered-dish supper that day.

I actually thought the practice went pretty smoothly. There was very little screaming or crying – and my daughter remained fairly composed, as well. Our good old Expedition even behaved throughout the ordeal – saving the major engine failure for the drive home.

But, for whatever reason, the experience made her even more uneasy about learning to drive. (I think she was traumatized about having to survive for more than twenty minutes without watching a YouTube video.)

A few days later, she came to me and sweetly said, “Dad, I’m just not ready to drive, yet.”

And that’s fine with me. Kids seem to grow up too fast these days, anyway, and I’m more than happy to let her hang on to childhood for a little bit longer.

I’m confident that we’ll be watching her pull out of the driveway and hit the curb soon enough. Until then, she can ride around with me in the Expedition – watching for the check-engine light, listening to Taylor Swift and spilling a few more gummi bears.

Copyright 2023 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. He is also a frequent contributor to The Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop, which named him Writer of the Month for June of 2017, and he has served as a judge in the Erma Bombeck/Anna Lefler Humorist in Residence program.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists says, "Whether he's breaking down the common types of yard sale denizens ('The Lingerer . . .she was here so long, I'll probably be able to claim her on my next tax return') or sharing cautionary tales of mattress shopping, Jason flays suburban life with a sharp wit. Shopping for his daughter's swimsuits, he wonders if he has 'strayed into the first aid section and . . .was looking at a new line of colorful ACE bandages.'"

Other than writing, his hobbies include berating the television when the Texas A&M Aggie football team is playing and sleeping as late as possible.