Generation Y's Howard Beale (dk) wrote,
Generation Y's Howard Beale

writing assignment

don't know how many of you i've ever given the full deal behind the pic of my trashed yellow GTI.

but i had to write a narrative essay last week and figured it'd make for good material. i tried to channel what i've read of HST while i was writing it. teacher said writing style was 'engaging' and i got an A on it, but standards around here aren't that high.

anyway, if you're interested, story is here:


In September of 1999, at the age of twenty-one, I underwent an experience that, in retrospect, seems to be a defining moment in my shift into adulthood.

It was late in the evening, about 10:30, and I was on the way to a friend’s house via Lawrence Expressway in San Jose, CA, a six-lane “sub-highway” with a speed limit of 50mph. I was driving my bright yellow Volkswagen GTI, which, as a young man, was naturally my pride and joy. Since purchasing it a year earlier, I had invested thousands of dollars in performance modifications in order to increase its speed, and improve its handling.

I was in the center west-bound lane, underneath a freeway overpass, when two other young men, roughly my age, rolled up on either side of me riding blue-and-white 600cc Suzuki sport bikes, commonly referred to as “rice rockets” because of their Japanese origin. I looked over and saw one of them eyeing the large blue tank of nitrous oxide in my rear cargo area- instantly recognizable to a gear-head.

Each of them gave the throttle grips on their right handlebars a few quick twists, producing a howling, echoing cacophony, as we were surrounded on four of six sides by flat concrete surfaces; an unmistakable challenge. Being young, male, and impulsive, I of course responded with a sharp jab at my own throttle pedal, the V6 engine under my car’s hood snapping out a duller, more bass-heavy bark through its aftermarket intake and exhaust. Knowing that I had a severe disadvantage in power-to-weight ratio against the two featherweight bikes, I felt no shame as I activated the nitrous system and pressed the purge button on my dashboard, venting a plume of the “cheater juice” from a valve just in front of my windshield and making sure the system was primed and ready.

Adrenaline and anticipation always gives me a minor case of the shakes, and my right foot twitched just above the gas pedal like a trained dog awaiting its master’s command.

The three lights in front of us switched from red to green, and I gave a too-strong launch, spinning both of my front tires for four or five feet before they finally found traction. Because of this, the bikes already had a four-length lead on me. After shifting from first to second gear, I jabbed the nitrous activation button on the dashboard, and barely had time to reach back down and shift again before the tachometer needle swung to the dangerous side of 7,000. A plume of blue smoke issuing from my muffler bisected everything visible in my rear-view mirror. As I approached both the end of third gear and 100mph, the distance between my headlights and the two riders shortened. Fourth would be all I needed to pull between them, and I shifted into it for the last time, without letting off the gas.

The biker on my right was a full length ahead of the other, placing the latter next to me as I pulled even with the rear wheel of the former. The road began a gentle curve to the left, and the leader swung into the center lane without checking his rear view- I could now only see half of his back tire over my hood.

In a moment of panic and terror, I let off the gas and stomped on the brake, fearing I’d upset the rider off of his bike at triple-digit speeds. The change in momentum caused my car to shift all its weight to the front tires, and the rear end began fishtailing. As the road straightened again, I found myself pointed at the median and then crossing it, still in excess of 100mph.

Yanking the e-brake in an emergency attempt to stop did nothing, and I was across the 3 opposing lanes of traffic before I knew what happened. My car’s nose caught on the waist-high dirt shoulder, and launched itself up at the soundwall in a near-vertical attitude. (When I went back to look a few days later, this 8-foot-high wall had been pushed back about two feet by the impact.) The roof caved in, and flattened my seat nearly perpendicular with the floor- I was pinned and along for the ride as the car bounced from wall to an old-growth tree, and then came to rest upside-down in opposing lanes.

Taken to the hospital, I was unbelievably lucky to get away with nothing worse than a torn ligament. In less than a minute, my youthful belief of my own immortality finally and forcefully ended.

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