The invasion of fear

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

As the phone rang, her heart fluttered in her throat. Toni, short for Antonia, stopped in her tracks. Her teenage daughter, Becky, departing alone in the family car to buy shampoo, had been gone a full 20 minutes. It was her daughter’s first excursion on the open road and Toni was nervous from the start. She knew something was wrong, but her daughter had insisted on driving herself. “Mom, I’m 16!” she had said. “Trust me!”

Toni had relinquished the keys, and now, as she made her way to the ringing phone, regretted her quick surrender to such a young child. “What was I thinking?!” she thought.

Statistics rang in her head. Teens were more prone to accidents. Insurance was much higher. Teens and texting. Scenes quickly invaded her imagination, as she pictured her daughter in various scenarios. A mangled car, blue lights flashing around, the crackling voice on emergency radios splitting the night air as strangers stood around with strained necks peering into the devastation. Toni herself had avoided many accidents because of her defensive driving, learned only through years of trial and error. And now she had unleashed her daughter – her darling daughter! – out into the madness, the sheer lunacy! – of concrete roadways carrying two-ton rectangles of metal hurtling down roads at speeds of 60 miles per hour passing in opposite directions just a few feet apart in which vehicles with other drivers get distracted or cars break down around curves or brakes fail or animals run into the road or other teen drivers are out there!

Toni wondered how she would break the news to her husband and what life would be like and the perpetual feeling of regret and remorse that would surely be her constant companion!

She had, by now, reached the ringing phone. With shaking hands and shortness of breath, she hesitatingly gripped the receiver and raised it upwards. The ringing stopped and a sobering silence ensued. Placing it to her ear, she braced herself for the words she was about to hear.

“Hi, mom! What kind of shampoo did you want?”

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is