I concede that it has never been one of my strengths. Those closest to me often question my disciplinarian credentials. I suppose I’m just one of those parents who isn’t particularly good at saying ‘No.’ When I was growing up, my own father turned saying ‘No’ into a principled tradition. I vowed that if I ever had my own son, I’d be doing things differently.
That’s really just part of the story I suppose. It’s kind of entangled with the notion that I love nothing more than hanging out with my nine year old son. We’re the best of mates, and if there is one thing that we do know, it’s how to have fun. It means a lot to us.
And so it was on this particular day as I drove my boy to school. He leant forward between the front seats of the car and asked incredulously, ‘Can the car really go up to 220?’
A brief discussion followed in which I advised him that I would never know as it wasn’t legal to drive at such speeds. ‘110 on the freeways is the fastest we will ever travel,’ I assured him.
‘Then why does the speedo go up to 220?’ he persisted.
‘I have no idea,’ I replied. ‘Doesn’t make an awful lot of sense does it?’
‘Do you reckon we could try and do 220? Just once? It would be pretty cool.’
‘No. I don’t think that’s going to happen.’
‘Oh, go on Dad. Please.’
‘The answer is no. We’re on a suburban street. It’s way too dangerous.’
‘Just for five seconds?’
‘Come on. Five seconds is nothing. I bet the other dads would do it.’
‘I doubt very much that they would.’
‘Please? It’ll be so cool. Just me and you Dad.’
That’s how it all comes about. He keeps pushing, I keep saying no, but eventually he just –
‘Alright!’ I bark. ‘Five seconds and no more!’
‘Woo-hoo!’ he squeals.
Suddenly I am driving the family car much faster than it has ever been driven before. Pedestrians stare, mouths agape, as we flash by. Although these pedestrians aren’t as alluring, I’m still feeling like the bloke in the ‘Hey, Charger’ commercials.
‘Go Dad, go! You’re the best!’ he hollers from the back seat.
The speedo passes 160, and although it is an 80 zone, the road is reasonably straight. No traffic on the stretch ahead. In 10 to 15 seconds we should reach our intended goal.
‘180! That’s faster than the Tower of Terror!’ he cries, head protruding between the seats.
‘You crazy? Seat belt on! Now!’ I blurt.
‘But it’s awesome!’
The car is pushing 200. Our surroundings are flitting by like illusions. Foot flat to the floor. Anticipating that final surge to the zenith. A blur of white, a snicking sound. A dog, a goat? A butterfly, a man in a lab coat? Who could tell at this pace?
Eyes glued to the speedo. Foot pressed flat for a good five seconds. No surge. Won’t go past 200. As I stare at the needle, I completely miss the T-section. We hurtle through the red light like a bullet train. Narrowly miss an open car carrier. A paling fence cascades, shatters, splinters. Now in a yard. Buffeting into mounds of mulch. Coming to rest deeply embedded within a thick row of hedge.
My son, seat belt still unbuckled, is ejected from the back seat area. Connects with the windscreen. It fragments like the teaspoon pummelled shell of a hard-boiled egg. Somehow, inexplicably, he lands across my lap without a scratch. Just like magic. Our eyes lock, dumbfounded.
We both erupt in peals of hysterical laughter
I got myself in a fair bit of trouble over that one. Part of me thinks not having any plausible explanation whatsoever for my actions did little to help my cause. The police took a decidedly dim view, as did the Courts. There were penalties; community service, a suspended sentence. As for my son …… well, he now rides the bus to school.
Was it all worth it? Mostly. It sure was a rush. However, I still harbour some disillusioned thoughts. My foot was clamped to the floor for what seemed an eternity, yet the car barely exceeded 200. It’s all a colossal hoax. Chicanery. Car manufacturers reeling in the consumer with false assurances. Not only did I feel cheated, but they have cheated my little man as well. To think that the highest point on your speedometer can never be reached. That’s just how it is. I’m not proposing that you test my theory. There are no guarantees that it will turn out in the same way that it did for me. Better that you just take my word for it.
published 4 June 2014