Back when I was a kid, we didn't have proms.
Naw, that isn't true. We had proms -- we just didn't have 14-seat Lincoln Navigators, hot air balloons, cruise liners, gondolas, horse-drawn carriages or Sherpas to take us to prom.
I had my Dad's 1974 Toronado.
Let me tell you about the 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado. The car had been Noah's first choice of transportation, but he opted for the smaller ark. Supposedly the first front-wheel drive car produced in America, the Toronado was a 2-door coupe with a 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8. It was big and fast and mine for that May night in 1977.
It was also the first and only time I drove the Tornado. It was also our first date -- the girl I took to prom.
Imagine your first date with your father's car and a girl all in the same night? That's nerve-wracking. How nervous can you be sitting in the back of a limo that looks like the inside of a strip club? What's the worst that can happen? The sky roof doesn't open?
Anyway, I was behind the wheel of my Dad's Tornado hurtling up 1-95 from Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. With a 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8. With a girl. Up to that moment, my life had not provided remotely similar thrills.
The car handled beautifully. I was, however, stunned to look down at the speedometer and see I was going 88 mph. It felt like 28 mph. Being the responsible young adult and weeks away from graduation and soon an exciting future in journalism, I slowed the Toronado down to a safe 83 mph.
Along with my super-groovy mustache, my Tuxedo made me look like a failed wedding singer. My date wore something beige or peach-colored or maybe it was blue. All I know is she looked a whole bunch different than she did just the Friday before in sixth-period English.
It was the smoothest ride of my life until I got cocky.
I wish I could remember how I introduced a really bad idea into what was shaping up to be a swell evening. It probably went a little something like this:
"I wonder what happens if I shifted the car into reverse."
I don't remember how my date replied. I imagine she was stunned, perhaps terrified, perhaps even suggested to me I not put my Dad's Tornado into reverse given we were traveling at 83 mph.
Do you know that inner voice that tells us if we are doing something stupid? I had given my inner voice the night off with pay.
Now, I've heard haunting, terrifying sounds (most recently coming from a friend describing a kidney stone extraction), but I still haven't heard a sound as heart-stopping as that of a Tornado when jacked into reverse at high speeds. The sound started low under my feet, an earthquake of pain, followed by a rattling that I feared would reduce my Dad's car to Lego bits.
I came to my senses and jammed the gear shift back down to drive. Miraculously, the Tornado also came to its senses. I fear I had killed my Dad's car (and who wants that on their young resume), but the car was fine. My date and I drove in silence to our prom. I don't think I went over 45 mph.
So, what valuable lesson can I pass along to today's young prom-goers?
If you give your inner voice the night off, please rush back home and make him tag along with you. He's not loads of fun, but he might save you from throwing your prom into painful, haunting reverse.
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