Monday, February 17, 2014

Driving Lessons

When I was young - and I'd guess about 12-years old or thereabouts - my dad drove a little red manual car. (This was before a deer hit him, or he hit a deer, and drove it with fur sticking out of the headlamp.) One day the car was sitting in the alley as we loaded it or were doing something, and my dad asked me if I wanted to drive.

Yes! Of course I did.

I eagerly climbed into the driver seat and he sat in the passenger seat. We were just going to go down the alley, a simple straight line. My dad instructed me, "Push down the clutch."

"What's the clutch?" I asked, again, very eager to learn.

"Get out."

And that was the end of my driving lessons until I was fifteen and began learning to drive for my permit and then license.

For the record, the second time my dad tried to teach me to drive, he was all sorts of patience and wisdom. And I really need to stress the word patience. I won't say I was a bad driver - duh, because I'm amazing - but, there were a few errors that had me doing some pretty stupid things. (Like riding the car over the parking barrier and/or curb. But let's not talk about that.)

I've felt woefully unskilled ever since. For the most part, one does not need to know how to drive a stick. However, there are few people in my extended family that do not know how. It just seems like something an Armstrong should know how to do. 1) Play basketball. 2) Roof a house. And 3) Drive a manual transmission.

This summer, my friend Matti and I are attending RomCon in Denver, Co. Can I tell you how excited I am? It's going to be pretty amazing. But we are planning to drive, and Matti drives a stick. This has me a little worried. Since she may not want to drive the full 16 hours there and back, if she expects me to help her out (and why wouldn't I want to help? I love driving!) then I have to learn how to drive her car.

So on Sunday, Matti took me out driving. Unfortunately, K-Mart has not gone out of business anywhere around here recently, and we were fresh out of abandoned parking lots. We tried a semi-abandoned parking lot, thinking that on a Sunday, it would not be as busy, and quickly found out that we were wrong about that. Besides, the length of the parking lot didn't really allow the car to get up to a speed high enough that shifting gears was necessary.

Spoiler alert: I am really bad at driving a stick shift.

I stalled the car too many times to count, and for some reason, my dominant left foot wanted nothing to do with driving. "I'm used to being bored!" it demanded. I tried to engage, and it just didn't work very well. After sitting at the exit to the parking lot, I made it onto a much busier street than where I should have been, and then stalled again at the light and then waited on the side of the road until it was all clear and continued driving into the Twilight Zone-country area of Herriman, UT.

I did OK on a straight road. I got into third gear. I even turned around, and DID NOT hit a single one of the eight or nine deer that decided to cross in front of me. I also did not stall the car once I got it moving again after we watched the deer frolic in the field and jump the fences.

Overall, it may not have been the worst lesson I've ever had. But then again... it might have been. Luckily, Matti's car did not seem to sustain any permanent damage, and she was rather patient.

I have until June to learn. I blame my dad for having me so ill prepared for such an adventure, but. . .I suppose that is all in the past now.


4 comments:

  1. It is a different place in time now. I learned to drive a stick shift when I was 7 years old on the farm. Now, you see very few stick shift cars at all.

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  2. You did very well. It just takes time. Mike says that the car has to be really old and the clutch pretty well abused in order to blow it out, so I'm not worried for the rest of our lessons. It'll be old hat in no time.

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  3. Too bad I'm not in Utah... I have a great track record teaching people to drive stick shift! You'll get it and then your road trip will be even more fun--I love driving stick shift!

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