On the misty morning of September 17th, 2024, I lay in bed and cracked open one eye: it was 7:34, according to the clock. Today was a very special day for me: my birthday! I was 18 years old today! I leaped out of bed and onto the floor, making sure my landing was quiet to not disturb my still asleep parents. I got dressed into comfortable clothes and walked outside to the fresh morning air. There sat my dad's car, a 2023 Honda, a sleek black beauty that was our pride and joy. With that car, I had first learned to drive. I drove that car every other day to my job.

Today it was unusually shiny and sleek, considering the mud it had been driven through. Maybe dad had taken it to the car wash yesterday. The tires looked pretty new, too. I guess my dad got tired of the old ones.

Feeling adventurous on my birthday, I climbed into the driver's seat and entered the ignition code into the steering wheel, and the car's hydrogen-electric engine rumbled to life.

"Good morning, Mike," the car's CPU said in a crisp, electronic voice. "Today is Saturday, September 17th, 2024. It is currently 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Today will be sunny with scattered clouds, with a high of 87."

"Thanks," I told the car. "Now, let's go!" I set the car into reverse and pulled out of the driveway and turned to face the neighborhood. At this time of day, only a few people were out walking or jogging for morning exercise, or else getting their newspapers delivered by the prototype Mail Robot X-1000 series. I pressed my foot to the gas and drove down the neighborhood. The car's driving was perfectly smooth and comfortable, and I enjoyed it utterly. The roof was down, so the morning air ruffled my brown hair. I turned up a bit of music.

Ten minutes later, I was pulling up to my friend Robert's house, and honked the horn. Robert came out of his house and saw me in the car.

"Morning, dude!" he greeted, walking toward me. He was already dressed in a white T-shirt and jean shorts. "What's up?"

"I'm taking a drive today," I answered. "It's my birthday today! Want to join?"

"Count me in," he said enthusiastically, climbing into one of the synth-leather backseats. I drove off, chatting with Robert as I turned up the music. A few minutes later, we found ourselves before Ashley and

Kate's house, and I honked again. Both girls came out and saw me, and came running forth.
"Happy birthday!" Kate cheered, handing me a small present and kissing my cheek. She was my girlfriend. "Are you taking a birthday drive?"

"Yeah, join us," I smiled, and Ashley climbed into the backseat with Robert while Kate took the passenger seat, and we all drove off, talking loudly. Ashley had sodas on hand, and we all drank them.

After driving around a turn and across the neighborhood, I came up to Matt's rickety house, and honked to get his attention. Unlike the others, he was still in pajamas and had messy hair, but had a lit cigarette in his mouth. He piled into the backseat, stretching out across Robert's and Ashley's laps.

"Whoa there, mind the soda!" Robert said as he held his can up to keep Matt from knocking it away. Matt just blew out smoke and said, "What's shakin', my people?"

"Smoking cigarettes is not advisable, passenger," my car's CPU warned him. "Tobacco is a major cause for cancer, death, and birth complications."

"Whatever, rust bucket," Matt grinned. "What are you gonna do?"

"This vehicle ahs as direct link to the city police department," the car's voice stated.

"Oh, um, check it out! I'm snuffing my cigarette out!" Matt yelped, pressing the cigarette to the seat and the end sizzled and went out.

"Do not damage the seats," the car scolded. "This will also re reported."

"Argh! It's bad enough when my parents yell at me without you doing it too!" Matt cried. The rest of us just laughed.

We all had a great time zooming up and down the road with our party car, calling out silly things to other people in other cars as we passed them. I pulled up to a convenience store, and everyone stocked up on bags of chips and candy, plus beers. I had more than my fill and felt my driving get a little crazy.

"Yee-ha! We just missed that one!" Robert whooped as I narrowly avoided a red caravan going the opposite way. My speedometer read over 65. "We ought to play chicken with someone!" I simply laughed, until suddenly, a streetlight far to the side was directly in front of me! I desperately tried to avoid it, but a white pickup truck was blocking my escape. Before I knew it, the car rammed right into the lamp post, crumpling the front and making steam burst out from under the hood. Everyone was thrown forward, and

Matt, who was lying down, flew forward until he was on the dashboard.

Horrified, I managed to get out of the mangled car, along with everyone else. The car was a wreck; the engine was almost cut in half by the post, and the rest of the frame was crumpled. I was forced to call a tow truck and taxis, so everyone could go home. We were certainly sober and shocked quiet by what had happened.

Half an hour later, I was in the passenger seat of the rumbling tow truck that brought the car to my house, and my parents came out worried. Once the car was dropped off and the tow truck was speeding away, I made my apologies.

"I'm so sorry, dad!" I cried to my father. "I was being irresponsible, I had too many people and drank too much and wrecked your car!"

My father, strangely enough, didn't look angry, but with a strange expression on his face. "Son," he said, "you should know that that wasn't my car. It's in the repair station right now. I had bought you a big birthday present: that car. It's just the same as our other one. I had forgotten to change the color in time."