By Joo Yoon, 17, Diamond Bar HS
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Not having to wait for his mom to pick him up is one of Joo's favorite things about driving.
Photo by Eric Yoon, 11, Suzanne MS

I know I won’t forget the day I got my first car. Well actually, I already forgot the date I got my car, but I’ll never forget the exhilaration I felt.

I got my car in December 2004, a pretty nifty Christmas present. Let me start off by saying that I didn’t blatantly ask for a car, although I did make hints. I’d say "Man, I wish I had a car so that I don’t have to wait for so long for a ride," or maybe "If I had a car, I could pick up the little brother so that mom doesn’t need to worry about him so much."

I thought I was pretty slick, but my parents caught on. I think that the only reason I got a car was because during the break I had to go to all these tutoring places, and my mom was going to Korea so she wouldn’t be able to drive me.

My parents and I weighed our choices, and we finally decided on a 2000 Nissan Altima. It was $8,000. I thought that was pretty steep for a car that had more than 69,000 miles on it, but having a car is very important for me. I live more than seven miles from my high school and there’s no nearby bus stop, so it was an inconvenient commute for my parents. Thankfully, they were generous enough to pay for my first car with the condition that I would pay for anything extra such as new speakers or subwoofers.

Three days later, I had the car—a black, four-door sedan with tinted windows and a V4 engine. It was the prettiest sight I’d ever seen.

The first time I drove it, I scraped the bottom on the dip near my house because I was going too fast. And I’ve been known to speed on the freeway, local streets and even in neighborhoods. A friend once asked me, "Joo, why do you drive so crazily? It does NOT turn girls on, dude." Well, I could care less whether girls get turned on—no wait, I do, but that’s not the reason I speed. I do it for the adrenaline rush, not that I condone speeding. It’s more of "do as I say, not as I do." But one thing to note is that if there are friends with me, I am the safest driver you’ll ever see. OK, so maybe not the safest, but I’m safe; I know my road signs.

Sadly, the car has an automatic transmission. I wanted a manual transmission, one where you have to change gears, just so that I could look cool by revving up my engine really loud like in the movie The Fast and the Furious. But now the only way I can rev it up is to put the car in neutral and press the gas. It’s kind of embarrassing, but it works.

The best thing is that I can go wherever I want, when I want. And since my mom isn’t there, I can act all "gangster" with the rap turned up and make one of my signature turns with the tires squealing. And it’s so convenient not to have to wait for my mom when she forgets that she has a son waiting for her at school. It didn’t happen often, but one time she came around 5 p.m. when school ended at 3. Now, I can just race to my car after school ends and laugh at my friends who have to wait for their moms.

The drawbacks of driving

I was among the first of my friends to get a car. Every day for a month all I heard was, "Hey Joo, can I get a ride?" One friend called me when she was at church all the way in Anaheim and wanted me to pick her up. I’m at home relaxing, and she wants me to drive 36 miles roundtrip to Anaheim?! I decided not to. The Dodgers were on, and they were winning, so sports or girls?

Nowadays, I tell my friends that I’ll take them anywhere if they pay me at least $10 for the gas, no matter the distance. When I go out with a group though, I don’t worry about that since I never drive. I mean, why should I drive when my friends will?

Unfortunately since mom pays my gas, I have to do whatever she needs. "Oh Joo, can you get this for me at the store?" or "Go pick up your little brother." I think I spent more time in my car during this past summer than I did at my house!

I’ve had my car a little less than a year and I have been in two accidents already. And they were both my fault. In the first accident, I backed up into my sports editor’s car (from my school newspaper) on our way to a journalism competition last May. That was embarrassing since all my friends saw me do it. I have been shamed for life, but at least there were no injuries.

The second one happened in August on my way to tutoring. I should warn people never to drive west into a sunset, because the sun can really blind you. I didn’t see the car in front of me stop and I rear-ended it. I was really sweating about the damages for the first couple minutes. Then images of police officers coming and interrogating me flashed before my eyes. It’s a good thing that I had barely begun to speed up otherwise the accident would have been much worse. That was a bad experience especially since the driver had medical bills, even though the damage was just a little paint chipped off her bumper. I was shocked when she said that she had whiplash after such a small crash. I still haven’t heard from my insurance company about what will happen but I was given the impression that I would not need to pay her medical bills. My insurance company covered the damages to her car. Thank God for insurance companies and my good luck that this wasn’t more serious.

Sure, there are drawbacks, but having a car is still the best. Now just about the only thing missing for me is to go on a cross-country road trip with my friends, as long as it’s in one of their cars. I don’t want to drive or put extra mileage on the 80,000 I already have!