QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stick Shift Memories...

You know those times when you’re sitting around with a group of friends talking about embarrassing moments? I used to tell a story about how, as a rookie driver, my first car was 5-speed stick shift; I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, but 5-speed cars 1) got better gas mileage (important in those 89-cent/gallon days, huh?) and 2) were less expensive. Stick shift it was!

I sort of learned as I went along, but I was in luck because I lived in the suburbs of Chicago, where the land was (well, it still is) blessedly flat. Some of you who have never driven stick-shift, nor do you ever care to drive a stick shift, are scratching your heads… what the heck does flat land have to do with anything? There are others of you already chuckling because you have first-hand experience at learning how to drive a stick shift and having to stop and restart while going up a hill.

As a beginner, even on flat land, it’s quite a precarious balance, learning just the right amount of gas to give it while you’re letting the clutch out ever so slowly. Give it too much gas, and you peel out…. Too little gas, and you putter out. We beginners have all been at a red light that turns green with our patient fellow drivers beeping at us from behind as we restart the engine after having given it too little gas.

So… I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, and I was quite excited to drive to school daily rather than take the dreaded school bus. One morning as I was driving the flat land to school, I happened upon a boy on whom I had a tremendous crush. He was a walker. All aflutter, I stopped to offer the cute boy a ride the rest of the way to school. He opened the door, heaved his backpack in, and plopped himself into the passenger seat. The butterflies in my stomach were going crazy. Oh My God!

With measurable anxiety I managed to get the car going with a decent clutch/gas combination that neither propelled us violently forward nor extinguished the engine altogether. Everything was going fairly well, conversation included, when I made the last turn toward school.

I froze.

There in front of me, the only thing between us and the school, was the one and only hill between my house and high school, complete with a traffic light at the top of the hill. The school building was literally not 100 feet more past the traffic light. I was so close! oh my God. Please please please don’t let the light turn red. I promise I will not talk back to my parents anymore. I promise I will be nice to my brother just PLEASE let the light stay green so I don’t have to stop on the hill. Please oh please oh please oh please oh pleeeaaassse!

The light turned yellow.

NO! In milliseconds I considered whether I could possibly make it through the light…but not a chance. Unsuspecting cute boy had no idea of the contemplative storm going through my head at lightning speed.

I stopped, defeated, my head dipped in gloom. Why did I go this way? My spirits sank. Cute boy kept chatting, oblivious to my impending doom. As if things could not get worse, a car pulled up practically to my rear bumper, making it so that I could not roll back even inches without hitting it. Dear God; why hast thou forsaken me?

The light turned green. Determined not to roll into the car behind me, I opted for the too-much-gas option over the not-enough-gas choice. We lurched forward, my tires screeching loudly, and completely peeled out going through the intersection. It was like NASCAR, only I wasn’t being sponsored.

Cute boy was absolutely stunned into silence for a moment, caught his breath, then blurted out, at the top of his lungs: “JESUS CHRIST!!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT SHIT?!!” [apologies for the cussing; I just can’t phrase it euphemistically without losing the very essence of the outburst].

It was time to reconsider who I would ask to be my date for the Turnabout dance the next week…

That’s the story I used to tell… but now I have a new one. I’ll tell you about it next time.

1 comment:

  1. "That shit was you not getting a ride from me again!" would have been a great response, but not one that I would have had the guts for as a teen...


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