Friday, June 24, 2011

In Which I Recall Driving Stick in 2007

I’ve learned something new about myself in the little time I’ve been in Vancouver. Well, to be honest, I’ve been learning a lot of things, but this one is something other people can easily see:

I can’t drive standard.

I figured this out on Wednesday night. I’m not quite sure what happened, but in the seven years since I had my first car—a 1988 Firebird, T-top, five-speed—I’ve completely forgotten how to shift. Not that I really even knew. And, it’s not even how to shift! It’s how not to stall.

All the vehicles here right now are having fits in one form or another—the Intrepid is on a long-term break as its engine is a sliver away from seizing, the truck’s oil system is shot, and my sister’s car, my old Tercel, is…interesting in a number of ways—all except for the car with the manual transmission. I laughed when my dad said I was welcome to use that one, because I haven’t driven standard in a long, long time. He offered to take me out driving in it.

“We’ll do a nice little refresher,” he said.

Poor Dad. I got this look from him while we were in the car that I get rarely (thankfully) but when I do get it, there’s no mistaking what it is he’s thinking: “How on earth did I spawn such incompetence?!” I get in the car and start it up. No troubles at all there…but then…. Did you know that you can stall a car so violently that it will buck you around in your seat not unlike a horse? KER-CHUNK!!! It was so sharp that my head whipped forward and my dad (poor Dad) grabbed at the “holy-shit” bar above the passenger window and his arm rest.

I burst into laughter. I couldn’t help it. It was the funniest thing. Absolutely pathetic! I loved it. I brushed the tears out of my eyes, gave Dad my most winning “you still love me, right?” smile and tried again. KER-CHUNK. I start laughing again. When I looked over, my dad’s lips were drawn tight across his face, thin and white. He turned his head towards me slowly, eventually meeting my gaze. His eyes were wide and his pupils were so big his eyes look black. It was written all over his face: he was struggling to figure out how we’re related.

I stalled out a total of four times, after which point I was in this happy, silly state of laughter. The shocking incompetence of it! I couldn’t even go a few feet without stalling out! Nevermind shifting up to second—I couldn’t even rightfully say I was in first! I think I love laughing at myself—and this was such a worthy moment! Is it wrong that I take such pleasure in my sweeping failures?

I do mean to conquer this…inability. Just not here (I think I’ve lost driving privileges in that car, if my dad’s face when I hopped out of the driver’s seat was any indicator).

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