Monday, June 18, 2012

Three and a Half Man(ual)

My first ever moment "driving" a stick shift was on the way back from Vegas to Provo freshman year of college with (one of my many friends named) Amy and another girl in the backseat who was equally automatic. Amy -- who had stayed up the entire night before or something while us normal people slept -- was soooo-falling-asleep-tired that she decided to force me into the driving role. She was that tired that she was willing to entrust me with her car; "I'll shift you up to fifth gear and then you just roll down the highway" was the theory, and so that's what we did--we rolled along the on-ramp while she shifted for me and said "OK, clutch, gas" etc. and then I was at 75 mph on the interstate all the way to Provo-ish, where I exited and promptly stalled and then she took back over after napping for several hours. I really have no memory of the mechanics of this event but looking back I am certainly glad there was no errant deer bounding across the highway for which I would have to brake.

Then there was the time I was an intern at Marketplace in L.A. and overly confident in that 21-year-old way and it was a hectic day and no interns had their cars there and the host and producers really, really, really wanted  one of us to go fetch them (and us) lunch, and no one drove a stick and my vague, "I sat in my friend's car once" coupled with my undeniable intelligence got me elected. I still remember Eve handing me her keys and saying, "You can do it. I have faith in you." Why? I was clever, sure, but this is a skill that really needs to be learned. I took my theory and managed to make it from the research annex to Taco Bell (?) and back while only stalling about twenty times. Eve, apparently, had the "easiest clutch in the world." The fact that I made it back is nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion, but the Marketplace staff was fed and I foolishly thought that I sort of kind of knew how to drive a stick. Then, I house-and-cat-sat for Eve a few months later and her We(st)Ho(llywood) street had alternate side parking and during her time out of town I had to move her car across the street one night for the next day's street cleaning and I just simply couldn't do it. I tried, but something about the slow speed and turning the car around just didn't gibe like accelerating through the USC neighborhood had, even with her "easiest clutch in the world." I eventually called my friend Samara to come over and move the car for me, seriously. What a nice friend. I think I offered to buy her a coffee or something in return.

Carl, another  L.A. friend, swore he could teach me to drive a stick. He had what I believe was called a "CRX." (Recall that I know/care nothing about cars.) We got in and he told me, from the passenger side, "If you can learn to drive my clutch you can learn to drive any car at all!" This did not sound promising; I'd rather get back to the "easiest clutch in the world." Needless to say, we got about half a driving lesson in. Three and a half, and done.

Fast forward to Mexico. You can see why I might be a teensy weensy bit skeptical about Brian's assurance that he could teach anyone to drive a stick in a day. (Why must we put numbers on these things? How about a week of lessons? A month? )  But learn I must, which led to my new stick-shift driving self.

No comments: