Last Word: Reminiscing is OK, just keep your eyes on the road

Five feet two and 85 pounds. No, it’s not Kate Moss. Or Nicole Ritchie’s numbers. That’s what my first Michigan driver’s license read when I began driving at age 16.

That was eight inches, 70 pounds and over 40 years ago. Since my first spin around the block in 1967, I figure I’ve rolled up better than 600,000 miles behind the wheels of an assortment of cars, beginning with my 1962 green Chevy Bel Air to the 2003 Nissan I drive today. My Maxima cost 60 times what I paid for that humble Chevy in 1969. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about paying over $3 a gallon for gas by comparison.

Ringing in a new year makes me wax poetically about things. Doesn’t everybody get the warm fuzzies when thinking back to their years as a teen driver?

While walking in downtown Manchester recently, I spotted a driver education car with a student behind the wheel. I decided I’d do the safe thing and let him pull into traffic instead of walking in front of him and run the risk of joining Dan Fogelberg for cocktails in the clouds.

When I made eye contact with this young man, I saw the same fear in his eyes that I experienced my first time on the road. He politely waved me ahead and I gave him a thankful nod. Thankful for his courtesy and thankful that he didn’t run me over. As I stole a backward glance over my shoulder, I nearly broke into hysterics when I noticed the vanity plate read, “O GOD.” Perfect!

When I lived in Hudson, I remember seeing a driver ed car with “YIKES” on its plates. I’m not sure what driving instructors earn, but I’m convinced it’s not nearly enough. I have noticed, however, that there is a guy who uses his BMW as a student training car.

Looking into the rear view mirror of my nearly 40 years of driving, a few moments make me cringe. And smile. And everything in between.

My biggest embarrassment came when I tried to clear a four-way-stop intersection in Lowell, Mass., about 10 years ago. No one would let me cross. I mean, not one car stopped. So, when I detected even the slightest gap, I gunned it safely across to the sound of honking horns. Checking my mirrors, I found out why no one let me in. I inadvertently crashed a funeral procession. Never saw the purple flags. It was one of those Southwest Airlines “wanna get away?” moments.

In 1970, while preparing to stop at an intersection for a traffic light, my brakes failed. Instead of ramming the cars ahead of me, I swung left and deliberately ran over a street sign hoping it would slow me down to a stop. It did. My car coasted to a rest in the parking lot of a brake repair shop!

And to the guy who uses his Beemer to teach kids to drive, I think I’ll assign this vanity plate: “R-U-NUTS?”

You can hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID-FM. Contact him at