Tuesday, October 19

Mario and Marco

"Mommy, what's that noyse?" Ethan asked.

"Well, son, that's the sound of Mommy learning to drive this car."

"Mommy, wha happend?"

"Mommy squealed the tires so we wouldn't roll backward down this hill."

*     *     *

The past week has been an emotional one, not in the life-changing or obvious sense, but in the way that sudden changes you weren't expecting can throw you off for a few days.

We had talked about selling the truck and downsizing to a more economical car (believe it or not, Dodge Rams aren't known for fuel efficiency), but the thought of selling it was exhausting. Besides, we loved the truck. Even if we didn't know how much it would cost to fill the tank, since our gas budget never went that high. Then my parents' neighbor, a landscaper, was telling us how his old Jeep died, and his business was on hold in one of the busiest times of year until he could get a new vehicle. So we sold him ours.

I offered my parents $4,000 cash for their Ford Edge, but strangely they didn't accept. They just let us borrow it for a while instead. And so the hunt for a new-to-us, economical but dependable car began. Yesterday we bought a silver 2007 Ford Focus from a delightful gentleman who will from this day forward be our mechanic. The car has no bells and whistles, but we like it that way (and we couldn't have afforded it otherwise). What it does have is a manual transmission.

My friend Brett drove an old stick Saab back in high school—in flip-flops, at times!—but he's a genius and an athlete. When we bought our first car together, I test-drove a stick in a parking lot. Much to my coach/father-in-law's chagrin, the only way I could keep the car going was to whiz around the lot at 35 in third. A few years ago, my friend Jon generously offered to teach me and, I quote, his "clutch has never quite been the same since." Still, I had some prior experience. Noah did not.

*     *     *

My main objection to the Sink or Swim learning method is that sinking is a very real possibility. Likely, even. And it's not the best strategy to employ at, say, the Chick-fil-A drive through during rush hour.

Noah was driving. Or, more accurately, kangaroo hopping and stalling. I won't tell you the details of what happened (because marriage has its uses, and I'd like to stay in mine), but I will say we were halfway to a divorce agreement by the time we pulled back out of the drive through, soaked in Coke Zero.

The experimental driving got me to school a few minutes late, and I promised Noah that I'd do the driving on the way home.

*     *     *

Leaving the parking deck would have been easy if it weren't for the automated bar that will only go up once you've inserted your paid ticket into the machine. I contemplated having Noah get out and do it so I could slow roll through the exit and not have to worry that the bar might come down on the stalled car. But I persevered. And there were only about five witnesses, so that was one good thing.

One of my most marked qualities driving standard is my inability refusal to stall out. I muscle through the shift from neutral to first, even if that means squealing the tires and incurring whiplash. Because the shame of a bad start pales in comparison to the shame of stalling through two green lights. But I'm not naming names.

14 comments:

stephanie said...

it'll get better!

my mom used to practice driving stick - i remember when i was a kid, we just bought a used subaru & she'd strap us into the back seat & we'd go up & down (& up & down & up & down) our steep driveway.

Catherine said...

Ha, that's what I drive. Except mine was made in 2000....

You'll get there with some more practice :D (I bet youtube has some helpful vids too)

Erin said...

stephanie—Thank the good Lord I'm not the only Mom with young kids who's ever been through this. Or who lives on a steep street.

Catherine—I'll check out youTube. and is yours silver as well?

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

You'll get the hang of it eventually! The first new car that I bought when I got out of college was stick shift because it was a lot cheaper than the automatic. Of course I didn't have a clue how to drive a stick and my boyfriend at the time took me to a big parking lot at a High School and taught me how to drive my new car. He had a lot of patience and he still married me after all that! The hills are scary but you'll get it!
Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

Well now here's the thing - something your mum can actually do better than you! I knew the day would come. Hallelujah!!!

Mum

Lt said...

I learned to drive a stick when my friend Brian got arrested for driving with a suspended license while crusising in his Volkswagen Scirocco and the cop told me, the passenger, to drive the car to the station. That left me trying to learn stick while driving a car whose name I couldn't even spell.

Since then, though, I've become at expert at driving stick. But I still had to google the corret spelling of Scirocco.

Locusts and Wild Honey said...

Just think of it like this. Every time you get in your car, it's like someone's paying you to drive it! That's how much your gas savings will be.

Lisa Watts said...

I'm so impressed! You are so brave.

I had a little fantasy about buying a used mini cooper a few years ago, but I couldn't get around the stick shift thing. A woman of my advanced years has too many things to think about when she's driving -- she needs something to be automatic and mindless, ya know?

Erin said...

Lisa—It's amazing to hear that a standard transmission brought you and your husband together. It seems to be driving me and mine apart ;)

Mum—I have yet to see proof that you really know how to drive stick. This weekend, it's on.

Lt—Was it at least daytime? Another issue I'm finding is everything looks different closer to the ground than from the crow's nest of the truck, so all the roads feel foreign, all while I'm trying to learn a new driving method. At least I know how to spell Focus.

L&WH—I'm definitely trying to apply positive thinking to the situation. I'll add that to my repertoire.

L.W.—Maybe when I get the hang of it I could mentor you in that as well. You know, in addition to being your social media adviser and adopted daughter.

Lish said...

Hmm.
I'm not much help.
Every time I even THINK about putting myself in your current shoes I get mad at my husband on principle.

I already want to hang him by his toes when he drives.

Still, I will say - a man that can handle a standard well adds a little sexiness to the deal. So. Give him a little bit - in a few months you may growl at him in a totally different way when he's driving.
It could happen.

Erin said...

Lish—Quite right!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't have more time to spend with you and Noah this week teaching you to drive a stick. However, if you want to drive up to Virginia in your "new-ish to you car", I'm sure I can find a few places to learn. We could even go into the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel during rush hour!!

Dad

The Bug said...

I learned to drive with a stick - but I used my cousin's automatic Pacer to take the driving test (yes, I felt like a COOL KID. Heh). We had a VW Bus & I remember being sent to church to get some chairs. Our church was in the middle of a big hill. I would start up & then roll back to the bottom - combination of newish driver & NO horsepower. Finally, I backed up & got a really fast start & made it up the hill. Quite traumatic!

Erin said...

Dad—Sound nightmarish, but thanks.

Bug—In my experience, faster is better.

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