Saturday, September 9, 2006
Sticking With It
When I was a teenager learning to drive, everyone in my family drove a stick-shift car. I took the required Driver’s Education classes using cars with automatic transmissions, but apart from that I only had manual transmissions available to me. So you would think I’d be a natural at driving a stick, right? Not so much.
My father’s car was friendly to me, at least until I had to come to a complete stop on the way up a steep hill with traffic behind me. The biggest problem with his car, though, was that he lived just far enough away to be impractical as a real driving/practicing option. My mom’s car never liked me. And my mom decided one Sunday that she was going to teach me a lesson by staying silent and letting me sit through gobs of traffic lights, getting honked at and sworn at, freaking out about what I was doing wrong, before she corrected me. That was the end of that – I got out, shaking and in tears by that time, and made her drive. The bottom line: I didn’t end up getting my driver’s license until I was 18 and had my own (automatic transmission) car, for the simple reason that my mom would no longer allow me to drive her car, my brother had never allowed anyone to drive his pride and joy, and my father’s car was not an option because it was (a) too far away and (b) still a stick shift and I was generally scared of them because of the experience in my mom’s car.
I’ve only tried to drive a stick once since that fatal Sunday in my mom’s car, and the results were pretty embarrassing. I got us where we needed to go, but it was by no means a smooth ride. I’m sure I speak for not only myself but also the other Peace Corps volunteers in the car when I say it was a relief when that journey was over.
So I find myself several years in the future, needing a car to run a few errands on this military base I’m living on. So today, when one of my friends very generously offered to lend me her car so I could get some errands done, I was extremely grateful. When I remembered it was a manual transmission, I was a little less excited, but I figured since she was aware of my history with such cars and had decided to trust me with it anyway, the least I could do was try it. I’m happy to say that I did pretty well. Still not absolutely perfectly smooth, but a whole lot better than I’ve done since driving my father’s car back when I was 15 years old. Maybe it’s the car itself, maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t have anyone in the car with me to stress me out, maybe it’s the fact that most of the roads on base lack any steep hills, I don’t know. But I’m hopeful that maybe, just maybe, my manual-transmission curse is beginning to fade.