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MalibuMy first driving experience was when I was 14 and my best friend was 17. We were in her parents old Ford Taurus, and being the “big sister”, she thought it would be fun to teach me. I drove about two blocks down a street not too far from where we lived, but one that we knew nobody familiar lived on.

I didn’t go very straight, and managed to hit the corner of someone’s lawn in the process. I don’t remember what the song on the radio was, but I remember it had the sound of sirens in the background, and they went off just as I was pulling off this poor person’s lawn.  I was sure I’d been caught! I was shaking for 15 minutes after, but I was giddy for a lot longer.

Driving. Was. Awesome!

Forget that I was too young, going a whopping  10 miles an hour, less than a mile from my own house, in a car that wasn’t mine, and that I was sure I’d be arrested for flattening that lawn; I was hooked! (When my mother found out about this when I was in my 20s, she still tried to ground me for it- I was married with a child at the time!)

Fast forward two years. I now have my driver’s permit, and I’m on my way to being a legitimate driver. My dad had brought home a little 1970 something Chevy Malibu. This car was MINE. Thoughts of freedom danced around in my head. I envisioned trips to the lake or San Francisco with friends on the weekends. (Did I mention I’m a dreamer?) Out my dad and I went to the parking lot of a nearby church for my first test drive. THIS is when he opted to tell me that it was a stick shift. I didn’t care, it was mine! We lasted about an hour together. He stressed out, I cried, he sold the car.

I hated driving at this point. Everyone was watching me: the driving instructors, my parents, my friends’ parents, my neighbors, the stray cats on the corner. I felt scrutinized and humiliated if I did anything even a little bit wrong. “Brake nicer, turn slower, watch this, watch that.” This was HARD! Not the freedom I had once envisioned. After a few months of practice though, I got through it. I was rewarded with the ability to drive my dad’s old truck; a 1996 GMC Sierra. I LOVED that truck, and driving became fun again!

Many years later, I became a parent. Those first few weeks and months were the most nervous I’ve ever had as a driver; That little baby in the backseat, so sweet and innocent, and all those other drivers out there aiming for us! I saw every pothole, every pedestrian, and every person on their phone as a potential threat to our safety.

I now required that my car, a 2001 Ford Focus, be all that it could be. It had to be able to stop on a dime, be able to make swift lane changes, drive straight, be reliable, and avoid obstacles. Sure, some of this depended on my driving skills as well, but it was around this time that I truly became aware that my car needed to be taken care of, if I expected it to take care of me. I became religious about changing my fluids and getting little things I noticed addressed, lest it suddenly burst into flames, throw me off a bridge, etc. (Did I mention dreaming turned into worrying??)

I have never known much about the mechanics of my car. I know when it “feels funny” or is making “strange noises”, but at that point, I take it to someone I trust, and I leave my fate in their hands. What I love about AutoNetTV is that our products create awareness!

Someone like me who knows virtually nothing about my car can sit in a shop waiting for my oil to be changed and get educated on things like my brakes, power steering, or timing belt, and the importance of keeping them maintained. I know for a fact that knowledge is power for me, and money for my mechanic. I still love to drive, but as a “grownup”, it sure is a lot more fun when I trust the car I’m driving to get me places in one piece. And it’s even better if I get to drive with the wind in my hair and the music cranked up… as long as there are no sirens in the song!

Melanie Platte is the Sales Support Specialist at AutoNetTV Media, Inc.