"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Sunday, March 6, 2011


There is no shame in it, I tell myself.  After all, I do know quite a bit about cars:  how to read a tire gauge; how to add oil; how to "unlock" a steering wheel; how to siphon gas (okay, not proud of that one)...but no matter, I still feel like a failure; I don't know how to drive a stick-shift.

It pisses me off.  I'm a country girl, after all.  Seems like I ought to be able to drive a standard pickup truck, at least.  But no one's ever taught me. That's not for lack of me asking.  

A boyfriend did try once, on his "Gremlin" (bet you don't remember THAT car).  He was very patient and kind-hearted.  But the lessons seemed to coincide with us injesting a great deal of pot first, which would inspire me to laugh so hard at something I'd done wrong or when the car started rolling backward on a hill, and that particular part of our relationship sort of fell by the wayside.
My dad and brother also agreed to take me out driving upon my repeated request.  This didn't work out.  I myself was calm enough, but they got to jabbering with each other about engines and motors and things and when I asked "This way? To the right?  Down?" half the time they didn't hear me and when they did realize what I was doing, they would start screaming at me.  Their nerves couldn't take it.

It does make me feel like a bit of a failure, though.  When you can drive a standard transmission you can talk a different tongue.  You know what "second gear" refers to, and if someone says "pop the clutch" you understand.  I don't.  Pretty nearly all of my girl friends know how to drive a stick.  I am very jealous.  I am especially jealous of the friend who actually had to teach her husband.  I am a little mad at this.

Any car I've had where the automatic shift is in the middle on the console has been pampered and coddled by me so I would be able to keep it going as long as possible.  Shifting gears from that area is SWEET.  I can almost feel like I'm riding around driving a stick shift.  Because yes, there is something very cool about driving stick, isn't there.  

I don't understand the gears on a multi-gear bicycle, either.  My pal Kurt tried to show me as we were riding up and down these canyon roads in California.  "You're going downhill so put it in seventh," or something, he would say.  I felt panicky and like I must have a learning disorder.

But there was that incident about 30 years ago when my friend Jonathan stopped by and picked me up to go fishing at a local reservoir.  Now Jonathan is a SERIOUS fisherman, and when they're biting, he ain't budging.  So here it was a beautiful day and I was just chilling on the shore with my wine coolers watching him as he waded further and further out.  The place was packed with people.

Eventually the wine coolers had the expected effect on me, and I had to go to the bathroom.  Now, again, I am a country girl and if I had a dime for every time I've peed in the woods I would probably have very few money worries at this juncture.  But when a place is crawling with people there is absolutely no place to go where you won't be seen or potentially seen.  So I stood it as long as I could and I finally asked Jonathan to take me to someplace with a rest room.  He didn't even glance in my direction.  "I don't THINK so," he said, casting his line again.  "Here's the keys to the truck, you take it and find a bathroom somewhere."
The truck was a Chevy "Love;" his father's.  Bet you never heard of this make, either.  Nice small white pickup.  I hopped in and oh, gloom, despair and agony on me  (remember that song from Hee-Haw?), deep dark depression, excessive misery..."Jonathan!" I yelled.  "I can't drive a stick shift!!"  And again without turning his head in my direction he yelled "You gotta go bad enough, you'll learn!!"

Not even for a second did I assume that Jonathan was kidding me.  I know him too well.  So I sat there with my teeth clenched, look at the dashboard and said a small prayer.  Any buzz I'd gotten from the wine coolers immediately dissipated (good thing).  This was my mission, should I choose to accept it.

By golly I remembered!!!  I was able to call up bits and pieces of everything I'd sort of learned from my previous escapades, and I started that truck and drove it without incident to the nearest convenience store, about 2 or 3 miles.  I don't even know if this place had a bathroom but dammit, they probably figured they wouldn't refuse me when they saw the look on my face.

And then I drove back.  I pulled in and parked and there was Jonathan in the same place, casting flies, again much too intent on what he was doing to glance my way.  I did vow never again to drink wine coolers in a place with too many people and no bathroom.  Or barring that, to pee first.  Or barring that, to learn to drive stick-shift.   For dummies.

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