Monday, December 29, 2008

Learning to Drive

I have no idea what in tarnation brought these thoughts to mind today, but I've been thinking about when I first learned to drive a car.

I vividly remember I simply could not wait to get my learner's permit, which could be obtained at fifteen years of age (good gawd, that seems like such a baby now), and start learning to drive so that the day, THE VERY DAY, I turned sixteen, I could take my driver's test and be able to drive a car. Wahoo!

Back in those prehistoric days, there was no such thing as a driver's ed class in high school. Oh, sure, you could go take lessons at a bona fide driving school but that cost money and no one but the kids from rich families went that route. Usually your mom or dad, other relative or some family friend volunteered to do the teaching.

Finally, the day came when I got my learner's permit, and my dad said he would take me out in the family car for short sessions. The very first time I got behind the wheel, the fact that I had this massive amount of power in my hands (well, it sure seemed that way to me) scared the bejeezuz out of me. Never had a car looked or felt so big. Our '56 black and white chevy sedan was a stick shift, my dad was a little short on patience (I'm being nice here), and I was not a very adept learner. Right then and there, I decided, nuh-uh, nope, I didn't want to learn to drive after all. What?!! I had been literally counting the days off until I could begin driving, and here I was chucking it all . . . just like that.

In all my life, I can never remember my dear old grandpa talking to me in less than a kind or playful manner . . . except when he heard that I had decided not to learn to drive. He got right in my face and shaking his big ol' gnarled finger at me said something to the effect of, "If you put off learning to drive until later, you'll never do it. Before you know it, you'll be a young mother with two little kids stuck living way out in the suburbs somewhere and you won't have any independence. You'll have to rely on others to take you places and do errands for you. I want you to learn to drive now!" Well. Alrighty then.

Back at it Dad and I went. We spent many frustrating hours (for both of us) in a huge, empty Sears parking lot, but I simply could not learn to work the clutch without killing the *!#%! motor every *!#%! time. No matter what, I just couldn't get the feel of it.

One day my dad was telling my uncle what a terrible time we were having. Dear Uncle Jack volunteered to take me out that afternoon and what an instantaneous difference. Just by using different language in describing how to manipulate the clutch and the gas, something clicked, and I got it! (He was also a very calm, cool, patient man . . . ahem.) Hallelujah!

All went smoothly after that and when my birthday rolled around, Uncle Jack (I think my dad was working, but he was probably just as glad) took me to take the test to get my for-real license and I passed with flying colors, probably surprising everyone. Whew.

And I've gotta say, I've always been glad that I learned on a stick shift (difficult as it was) because that has enabled me to drive any and all cars and several other vehicles that have a stick shift.

So now, I'm curious. What's your story? Everybody's got one. How did you learn to drive? How old were you? Who taught you? Was it a good experience? Where did you practice? Did you pass your test the first time? Fess up, c'mon, let's hear all the gory details!


RuthieJ said...

I learned to drive a car in high school driver's ed: standard transmission and no exciting stories to share (although my siblings and I all preferred permit driving with Mom instead of Dad).

The more memorable "learning to drive" experience was when I took the motorcycle training course. Mr. Johnson tried to teach me years before, but he tends to leave out important information and is a little impatient. I signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training course and was the oldest woman in the class and the only person who had never driven a manual transmission. It was nice because everyone was trained as if they had never driven a motorcycle before (even though I was the ONLY person in the class who hadn't). I passed by the skin of my teeth and it was a darn good thing because I was foolish enough to buy a bike before I even had my license!

Mama Pea said...

You're braver on the motorcycle front than I am. I'm okay on trail bikes but don't think I could handle a big one like you.

Claire said...

Ha! I loved reading this. My Dad taught me to drive a stick shift in Florida. I can't tell you how many times I stopped the car (well, stalled it, most likely) and stormed out, only to walk home beside the car with my dad driving and leaning out the window, trying to coax me back in! Hilarious now, but boy, did I ever get steamed at the time!!