Archive for Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shouts and murmurs: Joyrides come in various means

June 22, 2005

Talk about the ultimate joyride.

According to news reports, last Wednesday night, a 14-year-old Alabama boy took his mother's van and went for a ride.

But it wasn't the usual teenage drive to a convenience store for a soft drink and a bag of chips.

This young man drove to an airport five miles from home. He opened the door to a Cessna 152 and saw the keys inside.

So he released the tie-downs, climbed aboard, started the engine and flew the plane.

An Alabama police chief later said the boy told him he began driving the plane around the runway and the next thing he knew he was in the air.

During his 30-minute sky-high joyride, the boy made two take-offs and two landings. The first landing must've been OK, but reportedly the second landing wasn't. It was a rough landing, with the teenager suffering minor cuts and bruises.

The boy told investigators he had learned how to fly a plane from reading a library book.

News reports noted the airplane he flew was valued at $35,000.

The young man, who re-portedly astounded authorities with the success of his first flight, was taken to a juvenile lockup until he could undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Meanwhile, I wonder what thoughts went through the teen's mind during the incident -- and what prompted him to take such a risk. If he had been thinking rationally ahead of time, he would have known that even a successful flight would land him in serious legal trouble.

But in an exaggerated way, that's how life is. Whether we're in a stolen plane on a moonlit night or neck deep in hot water from some other misadventure, sometimes it's then and only then that we stop and ask ourselves -- what have we gotten into -- and why.

But at any rate, the boy took the ultimate joyride, and surprisingly, lived to tell about it.

It's not unusual for teens to want to take off on their own.

I recall how thrilled I was, at turning 15 or 16, whichever age the law specified then, and being able to drive for the first time without my parents in the car. It was a summer evening. I took a couple of girlfriends for a drive.

We stopped at the ballpark where a summer baseball game was in progress, then went to Larimore's A&W restaurant for a root beer.

For us -- small-town girls who had seen little of the world outside our native Kansas -- it was an exciting joyride -- our first ride on our own, the breath of independence in the air we breathed.

We didn't have an airplane's windshield to see the world.

On our smaller scale, our joyride was safer, more down-to-earth than that of the Alabama teen.

But a memorable joyride, all the same.

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