Never have I ever let a stranger drive my car


Jacqueline Fitzpatrick '22

After one month with her driver’s license, Michelle St. Denis’ 22 still cannot park between the lines in the school parking lot.

Getting your driver’s license is supposed to be a rite of passage for teenage girls, an event that signifies the beginning of adult life and newfound independence. 

For me, getting my license has meant something entirely different. 

It was a Thursday afternoon, a week before the start of school and two weeks after I got my license. The previous few days, I had driven around the city with my dad, but today would be my first day driving alone. Confident that I had waited long enough, I pulled out of my driveway and headed to my scheduled job interview at the Burbank Town Center. 

My sweaty palms tightly held the steering wheel as I passed by each and every intersection, praying to arrive at my interview on time. Looking from the street lights to the empty passenger seat beside me, it finally hit me that, for the first time since I got my license over a month ago, I was driving alone. With this realization, my heart began racing all the way to my destination, an unfamiliar parking lot near the Burbank mall. The beats per second only increased as I saw cars in front of me driving out the same way I was coming in. I am someone who gets anxious about a lot of things — like public restrooms and flying in airplanes — but this was a whole new level of stress. 

As I finally made it in through what I soon realized was the wrong entrance, I drove up to the second floor and pulled into the first available parking space I could find. With only five minutes until my job interview, my crooked parking job would have to suffice. I turned off the car and made a run for it. 

An hour later, I was walking back to the parking structure, confident that the worst was behind me. That is, until I traced my exact steps, ready to get into my car, only to find an empty space waiting for me. My eyes widened, my breath escalated and my hands shook with fright.

‘Where is my car?!”

“It was right here!”

“Someone stole my car!” 

My head exploded with worry. I ran up and down the stairs, trying to find my car, ending up in the same empty lot each time. It did not take long to reach my breaking point. The dam collapsed and a waterfall of tears surged down my face. As people passed by and said nothing, my next thought was to call a friend in search of comfort. My friend calmed me down enough to slowly start walking. 

Every step forward drained an ounce of hope and left me to imagine a terrifying but seemingly necessary conversation with my parents about our stolen car. I kept passing through rows of cars, holding out my keys and hoping to see through my watery eyes those amazing yellow lights flashing. I was only a few more sobs away from calling my parents when, just like that, it happened. On the complete opposite side of where the empty space had been, I saw yellow lights go off, and I ran with joy. I let out the biggest sigh as I swung open my car door and lunged my body inside. 

The waterfall did not stop, but instead of worry, these tears were pure relief since my car was not stolen. I had just been confused, a state I’m not unfamiliar with in life. 

After a long time of recuperation, I was ready to leave. I backed out carefully and started to turn left. In the middle of this process, I froze as I realized there was a whole new challenge lying ahead of me. My woes were far from over, and my relaxation levels were far from normal. I could not do it. The turn was too narrow, and I was about to crash into the cars beside me. 

Searching my surroundings in a state of panic, I saw three young men walking up the stairs to my right. With absolutely no hesitation at all, I rolled down my window and called out in distress to the gentlemen. As they approached my vehicle, I began to ramble about recent events and the fact that I was stuck, literally. I explained my lack of experience as a driver and stated that I could not make this turn without doing any damage. One of the guys looked at me and saw the despair in my eyes because the words he said next are ones I will never forget. 

“Do you want me to make the turn for you?” 

Now, I wish I could say that I, a 17-year-old girl about to become a young adult, used her good senses to politely decline this offer. All I can say, though, is that I’m sorry, Mom and Dad.

I opened my door and got out of the car. I looked at this strange man with long hair and what appeared to be a genuine smile. 

“Please don’t steal my car,” I said as I handed him the keys. 

Lo and behold, he got into my car with a reassuring, “I got you.” The whole process took him less than a minute, and I watched every second in relief. 

“I would not trust someone random to do this,” his two friends said, laughing. 

Hearing this made me question my sanity for a second. After all, the typical person who just recently believed her car was stolen would be a little more protective of said vehicle. But my level of desperation in those seconds far outweighed any critical thinking skills whatsoever. He got out of the car once it was done and handed me back my keys. The gratitude I felt for this stranger could not be put into words, though I tried. 

“Are you going to be okay getting home?” he said.

His genuine concern was obvious and much appreciated, especially after countless people had passed by me crying earlier, showing no sympathy. I assured him I would be alright, even though I did not exactly believe that myself. We parted ways soon after and once again, I was gripping the steering wheel with my sweaty palms, driving away in disbelief.  

That whole morning was quite unforgettable as far as first solo driving experiences go. I should probably look back now and say that I regret this hasty and potentially dangerous decision. If anyone ever finds herself in a similar situation, I would strongly advise against ever letting a stranger into the car. But while I will never be repeating this decision, I do think there was something unique about feeling like I could trust a complete stranger to help me out in a dire moment of need. The experience was, aside from frightening, a little rewarding. Call me naive, but I do believe that genuine and good-hearted people like this stranger exist; it’s an easy perception to forget because of the world we live in, but it’s true nonetheless. 

So, thank you to the stranger who did not steal my car; your act of kindness will not be forgotten. I should probably learn to park, turn and drive myself from now on though. 

P.S. — I didn’t get the job.