Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2002 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

No wheels, no keys, no problem? | There oughta be a law that a teenager can't drive a vehicle more expensive than what an adult drives. Yes, I know, it's discriminatory. Don't you love it?

Let's say you have an old dinged up Saturn with a few rust spots and a brand new Infinity sitting side by side in your garage. Who gets which car? Under my Unfair Play Rule, the adult gets the Infinity. This doesn't mean you don't care about the kid or that you don't holler, "Buckle up and be home by midnight!" It just means you're older and that age should have some perks besides a roll of Tums and a big bottle of Citrical.

Here's another example: You have a comfortable, smooth-riding car with a CD player, front and rear air conditioning controls and contoured seats. You also have an old pick-up that rumbles and has a 265 powered air conditioner - two windows open at 65 miles an hour - but runs fine. Who drives the car with the AC, you or the kid? You. Why? Because as a parent of three kids, you've changed nearly 10,000 diapers in your lifetime and that much bending entitles you to decent back support.

Now comes a tricky one. Let's say, hypothetically, that you have a minivan that has 169,000 miles, an insatiable thirst for transmission fluid, a radio that gets only AM stations and no air conditioning. Since the van was in an accident a few years ago, it also has a special feature. Without warning, the dome light flashes, the automatic locks jerk up and down and the door chime warning dings. Not a soothing ride, but reliable transportation if you can tune out the occasional poltergeist.

Due to circumstances beyond your control, you and your 16-year-old social butterfly must occasionally share said vehicle. The social butterfly yells things like "Dibs!" and "Called it!" apparently working under a set of rules completely unknown to you, someone who is her mother but outside the world of teens. These yelps signal she has staked claim on the vehicle for the next several hours. What's more, the social butterfly has done something particularly repugnant to you as an adult. She has named the vehicle. Shirley. This is not only disturbing, it causes you to wonder if you will soon have to dot the i on your name with a daisy or a happy face in order to secure driving privileges for said vehicle.

The latest get together the social butterfly has planned involves three other girls who drive to your house. They gather in the front hall and stand around laughing and flicking their hair, as is required by the Rules for Teens. They then depart for yet another get together, where there will be an even larger group of girls standing around, laughing and flicking their hair. For reasons incomprehensible to you, the group decides to go in Shirley.

I am standing on the front porch in precisely such a scenario yelling, "Drive safely and be home by midnight!" when I realize my butterfly and Shirley have left me in their dust. I have no transportation. Technically, the butterfly did not break the Unfair Play Rule. She did not leave me with a less expensive car; she left me with no car.

Yet parked in front of my house are an Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer, a bright red VW beetle and a new Jeep Sport Cherokee. I have no wheels, but there is $100,000 worth of metal parked in my driveway.

They could have at least left a set of keys.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman