I can still remember the day I pulled into my parent’s house in Dayton with my little run down black Chevette. It had worn down orange and red racing stripes like it had been a part of the Bad News Bears Race Crew for Losers. Yeah, it looked like it had finished in last place getting a poor detail job as a booby prize. It had bloody red interior that was the worst color of upholstery in a car I have ever seen in my life! Oh, the only saving grace was the pattern in the center of the bucket seats in the front that looked exactly like a pattern out of the 60’s or 70’s on Larry the Lizard Lounge’s leisure suit. Checkered pattern with gray, black and red, and wow, what a fashion statement that made. Gee, I wonder why that trend never took off.
I had a few lessons in how to drive a stick shift car from my parents in Dayton. These were given with their car in a parking lot of a local high school, prior to the weekend I received the Chevette, compliments of my soon to be ex-husband. He decided, in exchange for me asking for a divorce, it was appropriate he take the nice car with an automatic and I be left with the crummy one with a stick. Forget the fact that I had never driven one, that was just a little technicality, that and the fact the two young children would be riding with me as I had sole custody.
Imagine my surprise when exactly one week to the day after my first lesson on how to drive a stick that lasted 2 hours I awoke to look outside and find, sitting in my driveway, the black mobile. I could hear it laughing at me, and as it did so, I slowly turned around as I also heard an audible gasp behind me and there stood my two innocent children with eyes as big as saucers, faces aghast saying “What are you going to do it?” I promptly replied, “No problem, drive it!” I thought to myself though this car is just waiting for me to roll back out of my hilly driveway and crash into something trying to release its parking gear while I put the darn thing in gear. My poor kids were going to be passengers, guinea pigs as it was, aboard for the ride of their lives as I learned, that is, if they and I survived. Maybe our first attempted drive should be to church to pray!
Well, we got to my parents that day quite easily. Most of the ride was expressway, amen. When we got in the house, I think both of my children’s hair was plastered to the side of their cute little faces. See this was in the heat of summer and this vehicle had no air conditioning either. The windows in the back hardly opened so the kids and I practically smothered to death in the heat riding in it. It was grounds for speeding due to lack of oxygen while in the auto. My parents smiled and asked my kids right off the bat how I was getting along with the stick shift car. The response from my loyalists was to jerk forward and back, simply. Nonverbal as if to imply I was anything but adjusted. Everyone laughed everyone that is but me. I glared at my munchkins as if to say ‘Traders, you shall be hung, or at least be remiss of Twinkies in your lunch this entire week.”
I think the laughter stopped the day my son turned 15 and it became evident that I would indeed be the one teaching him to drive when his drivers training class was ended. Now who was laughing? By that time, we had two cars, and he opted for the automatic saying he would learn the stick later. I think it finally dawned on him that popping a clutch is an easy thing to do for a new driver and it would be hard to razz me if he did it too. Imagine his face when he realized his mom, basically the only one raising him would be the one working with him while he had his temps prior to him taking his driving test. And I was insistent he get that license as soon as possible as we lived pretty far out in the country.
So off we went to learn to drive, or should I say for him to practice and me to practice teaching as I had never done anything like this before. One might easily say I am not the world’s best driver. Though I have an excellent driving record, I am not great at distance perception, and many, shall we say, other areas of driving that are associated with female drivers are equally issues with me. And so, picture this, an inexperienced driver driving sitting next to a woman who is not a very good driver. You have a mathematical equation with a high probability for a crash ratio of 90%. And let’s throw in a dose of emotional response of 80% on the female side in this scenario and a male that is really looking for some strong guidance from someone who is not quite sure they can give it, not in the area of driving detail.
In the end, my son and I shared quite a few laughs. We shared a few yelling matches. And not one single vehicle, fire hydrant or pedestrian was ever hit! (And if they were, I would never ever share this type of information, for it I did, what kind of mother would I be?) My son became an excellent driver but one who preferred to not teach his sister to drive but drove her everywhere until she obtained her license.
When my daughter turned 15, she knew the vehicle she would drive would be a stick shift. She had, as most teens do, no choice in the matter. It was that or nothing, so she opted for wheels. Drivers training got her in touch with the mode of changing gears, thank goodness as I have no idea how to start from scratch teaching someone how to drive a stick; I just know how to do it. I do think her instructor was nicknamed Mario Andretti. She can, to this day, turn corners on a dime, travel at speeds unknown to man and weave in and out of traffic like she is running in the Indy 500! Apparently, when she took her test, she did not demonstrate any of the skills previously mentioned.
I could not help but remember those tender years when I looked out and saw my grandson and grand-daughter driving a child’s electric car together. Note: This toy car was an automatic. Note: Each child took turns driving. Note: The grand kids did ultimately crash into a telephone pole. Funny though that both of their parents never did crash into a pole but did have their own share of mishaps with vehicles. The only one that has hit a telephone pole is their dear sweet Grandma, moi. So perhaps one of those two may be cursed with my lack of driving skills in the future, seeming as how, at the tender age of 4 they have already started their driving legacy with the first crash, the one Grandma will never forget and remember oh so fondly!