Driving His Life His Way

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The Livermore children spent their earliest years in Denver, although Tia barely logged any time there before we moved to Gunnison. So Terri was perhaps 3 the day her mother looked at the very tall tree in the backyard and saw Terri at the top of it.

The tree had a healthy lean, as I remember it, which made it fairly easy to climb, but no one was prepared for Terri to scale its heights. There wasn’t any way to get to her, really, without talking her into coming down, which she did, rather nonchalantly.

On the day we left that house on South Forest Street, something got left behind in the locked, empty house. Some adult wanted to push me up through a front window, which had several small sections, up near the eave, where I would then drop inside and unlock the door. But that seemed like too scary a proposition for 6-year-old me, and some adult neighbor ended up wiggling his way in. (I have no idea why I didn’t volunteer Terri — this was much less vertical height than the tree.)

Some time after that I grew up and bought my own house, and moved in across the street from the Hoots family, which featured two kids when I moved in but picked up a third shortly thereafter. One day Dale crossed the street with a set of keys, wanting to know if they were mine. They were, but they were in his hand instead of in my ignition where they generally lived.

[I think it was Frank Vader who once said it made it so much easier to borrow someone’s car if they left the keys in it.]

It turns out youngest son Colten, probably in his “terrible two’s,” had made it across the street, managed to climb up into the bed of my truck, up onto the truck box and in through the open rear window, successfully snagging the keys as proof of his triumph. It’s just as well that Dale found them, because I could have been wandering around for months wondering what had happened to my keys.

In her younger years Tristen Haus, who is somehow graduating from Gunnison High School this weekend, managed to drive her father’s truck down the family driveway into a fence.

But now these precocious children, one of whom is in her 50s and another at least in his mid-20s, although I have no idea how any of this happened, have been put to shame. Deeply to shame. They have nothing on a kindergartener from Utah.

Adrian Zamarippa of Ogden, Utah — admittedly 5 rather than 3, so I suppose we should cut Terri, Colten and Tristen some slack — broke into his piggy bank one morning last week, coming up with $3. Then, while his 16-year-old sister was sleeping and his parents were at work, he helped himself to the keys to the family SUV and lit out for Los Angeles.

Well, maybe not “lit out,” since his maximum speed appears to have been 32 mph, but he made it onto the interstate and got three miles along it before a cop pulled him over, thinking the “slumped over” driver was having a medical issue.

But no: it was a 5-year-old, perched on the edge of the front seat with both feet on the brake. He told the officer he was on his way to LA to buy a Lamborghini.

Let’s just think about everything involved here (and be grateful that this story is funny because no one got hurt). I mean, when I was 5, I was excited about my Weekly Reader books. Six of them arrived as the start to my membership, at least one Dr. Seuss book and, most important, Look Out for Pirates! That’s what I knew about when I was 5.

But Adrian has a world of skill sets that didn’t occur to me until much, much later in life. He knows a car costs money. Three whole dollars! That ought to get him the luxury package.

He knew enough to wait until his sister was sleeping. He knew where the car keys were and how to use them to get in the car. He knew how to start the car. Even if it’s a fob-button combination without an ignition slot, I doubt very much I would have managed that at 9, let alone 5.

He knew, or figured out, which pedal was the gas and which was the brake. He found his way from their house to the interstate and made a successful merge. Heck, I still have problems with that. He knew what to do when the cop flashed his lights, pulling over and bringing the car to a stop.

His family said that other than a battery-powered car he drove up and down the sidewalk at age 2, they were unaware of any car skills he possessed. In fact, they assumed he’d been kidnapped (Look Out for Pirates!) when they couldn’t find him. I guess no one told him about the part about leaving a note: “Dear Mom, I’ve takun all my munny and gone to buy a car. A cool one, not like this hunk of junk you drive. Oh, and I took your car, too.”

You know, I gave my niece Ellie a battery-powered car when she was young. It never occurred to me that this was every bit as bad for her as the cigarettes my friend Bob offered her (at least for a photo op) shortly after she was born.

This being the age and temperament that it is, many, many people took to social media to tell this family what awful people they were for “letting” Adrian do this. They must be among the more-virtuous-than-thou that didn’t have a Terri, Colten or Tristen story in their past to know that kids can surprise you, perhaps not pleasantly, on any new day.

Once, on my bike ride home, I encountered an 18-month-old out by himself toddling down the middle of the street. Without getting off my bike, I tried asking where he lived, although he seemed non-verbal. I looked around, and every homeowner I knew on the block did not have little children, so I defaulted to calling the police.

While watching the boy inch closer to a heavily-traveled street, prepared to grab him if necessary (fortunately, his attention was caught by a red fire hydrant), I heard a panicked woman hollering a boy’s name and hollered back. A moment later a panicked man appeared half a block away out of the alley, also hollering for the boy.

The woman caught up her toddler, and gasped out, “He opened the latch on the door! Just yesterday he couldn’t do that!”

Kids. It’s a miracle any of us make it out alive, although some of us refuse to be dumped on our heads through high-up open windows, thus increasing our own odds. And then there’s Adventurous Adrian, who gave a lot of people some serious heart failure but who now has quite the tale to tell.

It even ended with a Lamborghini, even if only for an afternoon: an owner of one of these cars heard about Adrian’s determination, and drove an hour to get to Adrian’s house and take him for a ride. Adrian didn’t seem chastened at all, shouting, “Faster!” as he rode in the $3 car.

This is not a story ever told by Dr. Seuss, but it’s still a good one.

One thought on “Driving His Life His Way

  1. This is almost correct. In fact it was terri who crawled through the window and had yo ride on coats (from the coat closet) all the way to Gunnison. TL’s job was to take care of baby tia while I drive. I earned every grey hair on my head

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