A Sticky Situation

As you enter your teens, you may start to notice many changes. Your body changes, you may begin to grow facial hair, and you may start to feel differently about the opposite sex. One of the biggest changes you will experience is learning to drive. Hopefully you have parents to help you through this difficult time. Also, it helps if you learn to drive in a car with an automatic transmission, as I did.
When you enter college, you may realize that your vehicle is…slightly less than desirable. The fact that it’s painted neon blue and has a fan belt that shrieks like a soul in torment and doors that leak like Niagara Falls may not seem so cool anymore. You may wish to purchase a new mode of transportation. Your father may tell you (correctly) that a manual transmission gets better mileage than a comparable automatic. You may find an adorable red Toyota pick-up and fall in love…and then remember you don’t know what a ‘clutch’ is.
I don’t know if you guys saw this coming, but this happened. Allow me to narrate my experience for your reading pleasure.
First Drive: Dad pulls off I-5 and tells me to get into the driver’s seat and give it a spin. I am promised it ‘will be easy.’ Confidently, I depress the clutch, shift into first, and step on the gas pedal. The truck gives a roar of rage. Terrified, I immediately remove my foot from the gas. Truck sputters, coughs, and dies. Lesson one: don’t stomp on the clutch and the gas pedal at the same time. Amazingly, I manage to make it home without killing it again…with my dad taking care of the shifting. When I come to a stop in my driveway, I realize it is difficult to remove my fingers from the wheel.
Second Drive: I attempt the impossible. In other words: driving Cornelius Pass. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the Portland/Beaverton area, Cornelius Pass is a very narrow, curvy road with several stop signs on uphill slopes. I make it to one such sign, kill it and have to ask my dad to take over. A friendly gentleman in a Subaru bellows “Hang in there!”, but I am not in the mood to tolerate well-wishers. I scowl and scramble into the passenger seat in shame. Lesson two: uphill stop signs stink like two hundred year-old cheese.
Third Drive: We relocate to a large parking lot to try to sort out the gas pedal v. clutch debacle. Fifteen minutes in, I have accumulated more kills than a sniper in a bad mood. From across the street, several gentlemen smoke and watch me bemusedly. Strangely, my eyes have started to water uncontrollably, which is weird, because I wasn’t aware I had tear ducts. My dad sighs and settles in for the long haul. I begin to be extremely frustrated. Lesson three: give yourself a break. Clutchin’ ain’t easy.
Fourth Drive: Trip four is a simple mosey up and down and up and down the street in front of my house. Something clicks, a little. Shifting is not a problem, and the gas pedal begins to behave less like a juvenile delinquent with a death wish. I only kill it once, and begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I also happily avoid burning out in the neighbor’s driveway when I have to turn around. Success. Sort of.
At the end of the weekend, I have begun to master the art of life in manual, but not enough to drive the truck back to Monmouth alone. I resolve to return in a week, confident that will succeed.

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