In the summer of 1965, I was 14, not old enough to get a driver's license, but I had plans that day.
My mother and oldest sister, waitresses at an upscale restaurant, were scheduled to work the lunch crowd. They'd drive together in my sister's car.
Parked at home was a new 1965 Mustang convertible. My mother's car. That car was hot! Its jet-black interior and jet-black convertible top were equally matched by its champagne beige exterior. And my mother — thank you, Ma! — had opted for the V-8.
She wasn't aware that I knew where she hid a spare set of keys to that beautiful Mustang. After I watched her and my sister turn the corner at the end of the street, I dashed into the house, tore the kitchen wall phone receiver off the hook and dialed one of my cohorts who lived two houses down. Fortunately for us, his mother was also at work. Plus I needed an accomplice to stand by my story — bragging rights were at stake.
I had all the bases covered.
It was a gorgeous summer day and the last summer before we would start high school. About as soon as I hung up the phone, I heard a knock at the door. My buddy. When he came in I dangled the keys in front of his face. We bolted out of the house and jumped into the car. I fired it up and checked the fuel gauge. We had plenty of gas, but I wouldn't need much anyhow.
I reasoned we'd have easily more than an hour before the lunch shift was over. We wanted to drive downtown, just a couple of miles from where we lived, with the top down. We'd look cool driving around, catching the eyes of girls on their lunch breaks. On such a beautiful day, there would be a lot of girls.
Before long I had navigated through the neighborhood and was on the highway, approaching the exit for downtown. Then all at once there was a slight curve. I lost control of the car and started to go into a spin. There had been a short summer shower and hydroplaning was not a term I yet knew. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as we spun around. I think we made two complete revolutions and as we spun I could only imagine hitting the guardrail and trashing this awesome car. My mother's car.
Then as suddenly as it started, we stopped. We were facing in the right direction, with cars around us slamming on their brakes, yet none of the other drivers wrecked. I didn't even miss my exit.
But I was scared to death. Any hope of playing it cool with the girls was quickly abandoned as I got back on the highway to beat a path home. If I had trashed that car, I would not have made it to my first year of high school.
As I rounded the corner to my house, I could not believe what I saw in the driveway. My sister and mother were standing there. The lunch crowd had been small and they headed home early.
To this day I don't know what came over me, but I decided not to stop. I started driving in circles around the neighborhood. Because our street made a loop, every minute or so I would come back to our house.
After three times or so around the block I finally pulled into the driveway to face my punishment. My buddy jumped from the car and high-tailed it out of there. But his fate was sealed, just as mine was.
Grounded for the rest of the summer.
Tony Tutino, originally from Connecticut, now calls the Tampa Bay area home.