“Miss, step out of the vehicle please.”

I held my hands in the air, got out of the car slowly, and walked toward the officer.

I was 16 and alone with a boy I just met. A boy I couldn’t help but think was the guy my parents had warned me about.

The man in blue shook his head and told me to put my hands down.

“Why are you so upset, young lady?” he asked. “Is there something going on I should know about?”

My uncontrollable sobs from the passenger seat caused him to question if I was drunk or held against my will. I was neither.

I was still in my work uniform, and Shawn was sitting in the driver’s seat, still clocked in.

“It’s just...” I sniffled. “My parents told me if I let anyone drive this car — and they meant anyone — they would take it away from me and make me drive (I shuddered) the Dragon Wagon.”

The Dragon Wagon was my mom’s station wagon. Brown and white with an extra seat for comfortable, family travel, and a rear door for convenient back end loading, it was a mother’s dream and a teenager’s nightmare.

“Did you willingly allow that boy to drive your car?” he asked with narrowed eyes.

I nodded. It wasn’t my fault though.

After waitressing a double shift at the Mark Twain Dinette on the Fourth of July, my car got stuck in a mud patch. We had to park in the grass for the holiday so we didn’t take up parking spaces downtown.

When I went to seek help, every guy in the place jumped at the chance to drive my classic, apple red, 1968 Mustang with a black vinyl top. This was the exact thing my parents said would happen when I got the car.

Shawn won a round of rock, paper, scissors to see who got to pull me out.

Minutes later, he easily maneuvered the car out of the mud patch and then begged to drive it around the block.

Peer pressure. Another thing my parents warned me about.

“Fine,” I said. “Around the block, and that’s it.”

The grin that spread across his face as he squealed my tires is one I now know leads to trouble.

People on the side of the road leaped into the ditch as gravel sprayed from the side of my car, and an unmarked police car pulled up with flashing lights.

Let me remind you, Shawn was still clocked in at work and getting paid while an officer ran my plates and ambled to the driver’s window.

“Son, you didn’t impress me,” he said.

After that, my sobs made it impossible to continue conducting business, so he called me out of the car.

My criminal record currently consisted of three detentions and one day of IBS (in building suspension), and every one of them was because I continued to think it was possible to get through Hardee’s drive-thru and scarf down a sausage and egg biscuit before the morning bell rang.

After our conversation, the cop bent down to the window and locked eyes with Shawn.

“You get a warning today only because of her,” he said. “I better never see you drive a Mustang again.”

“Yes, sir,” Shawn said.

A month later, he pulled into the back of the Dinette in his own 1969 Mustang. I spent many nights going up and down Broadway in it, especially after mom and dad sold my Mustang and bought a used Cavalier instead.

God loves foreshadowing in His plans.

I never dreamed 22 years later, that Shawn’s Mustang would sit in our garage, and be known to our children as Dad’s old car that doesn’t run anymore.

(I also never thought I would wear elastic mom jeans, but here we are.)

Nostalgia is good for many things, but one of its best uses is to look back on a chain of events that led you where you are now.

Life isn’t random as it seems as God knows where we’re going the moment we get on the road. But it can take years for us to see where it’s going.

So, If you’re feeling a little lost in the universe, buckle up, pray, and see where the ride is taking you — because God tends to go the scenic route.

But if you’re at work, just be sure to clock out first.

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