For the third time in my life, I'm facing the prospect of handing a 16-year-old girl the keys to a car and then watching her drive away.
The youngest hits (excuse the choice of words) driving age today. She won't be able to get her license any earlier than Thursday, so consider this four days' warning. You know, to move your mailboxes back from the street.
Annie Grace was born just 15 minutes ago, so it's hard to believe she'll be lining up for her driving test in a few days. Hopefully all that time behind the wheel with her dad in the passenger seat - and, often, her mother losing her mind in the back seat brakebrakebrakeBRAKE! - will pay off when it's one of the kind folks at the Department of Driver Services navigating.
An aside: Those guys must have nerves of steel. I know what it's like to have been in the passenger seat for this rite of passage for three teen girls; those testers have ridden shotgun for hundreds of them. Do they get hazard pay? I'll bet you could drop a live grenade in their lap, and they'd just shrug and lob it back.
While the hope for a passed test currently is an all-consuming passion for the resident soon-to-be-16-year-old, the novelty of the freedom of the road will soon fade with the first "check engine" light or incessant dinging of the empty-gas-tank alarm.
I'm just glad gas is about a buck or so cheaper per gallon this year than last year, or I'd have to restrict trips to circling the cul-de-sac.
That would certainly bring back memories, though the trips would be on big wheels and bicycles. Maybe Annie is tougher, or luckier, but unlike her sisters, those early years never earned her a trip to the emergency room for stitches.
She did once, in preschool, threaten to send a bullying classmate for first aid, knocking him to the floor and pummeling him after he swiped a toy from another child.
That toughness no doubt came from trying to keep up with two older sisters. It first manifested itself as she learned to talk at an early age. It then took a long time for her to learn to stop talking.
In fact, on a couple of two-car trips her sisters would quietly plead for her to ride with me so they could cruise in peace in mom's minivan. I didn't mind because I enjoyed the talkative company.
Annie got a little less chatty as she grew older, but she's still competitive. She did the traveling cheerleading squad thing for a while - my ears still haven't recovered from the screams of the cheer moms - and now she's headed into her second year of high school lacrosse.
But the biggest competition on the horizon is the one that takes place between her own ears and in the driver's seat of her dad's truck, with a far-less-talkative passenger holding a clipboard and the power to grant her the freedom of the road or doom her to continuing to take the embarrassing drive to school accompanied by dad chatting up a storm in the passenger seat.
Move those mailboxes now. I warned you.
Happy birthday, Annie.
Annie isn't the only one having a milestone birthday. Columbia County Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine celebrated his birthday Thursday, hitting the big 4-0.
Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean also turns 40 this month, so the county's recent youth movement among public officials has inched a little older.
Congratulations to our neo-quadragenarians.
Let the sun shine
An unprecedented group of local media outlets, including The News-Times, will present a forum Monday on sunshine laws and citizen access to government.
The event takes place at the Richmond County Board of Education office on Broad Street. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Area public officials and the public are invited.
The forum was prompted by outright violations of open records laws by Augusta officials. We haven't had many such problems in Columbia County, but learning the law is an important step toward making sure it's followed.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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