Driving Lessons

This post was written in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club:
The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing
Unfortunately, I was able to fill in the blanks with crashed and buying a car

“Here’s a nice one.” The salesman pointed to a red Dodge Charger hatchback.  “Bucket seats.  AM/FM.  Reliable.  Practical.” 
Practical wasn’t an image I was shooting for.
“It has a sunroof.  Wanna’ take it for a test drive?”  He held up his hands and mimed driving. 
I nodded, feeling the hot vinyl of the steering wheel beneath my fingers.  I got in the car and bucked my seatbelt.  I reached for the keys dangling alluringly from the ignition.  And there, in the center of the vehicle was...  “But I don’t drive stick…”
“Oh, well…I’ll just drive it for you then.” 
We exchanged seats.  The salesman cranked up the radio and popped open the sunroof.  He pulled onto the street and changed gears, all the while extolling the virtues of the car over Madonna’s “Material Girl.” 
We returned to the dealership.  The salesman casually draped his arm across the steering wheel.  “Whaddya’ think?”
* * *
My father insisted that my sister give me lessons.  Kathy went over the basics: clutch, brake, shifting, and we were off, the car rocking violently every time we arrived at a stop light, my sister shouting, “the clutch! Hit the clutch!” while other drivers and pedestrians, too, pointed and laughed with open mouths.  
Brake.  Clutch.  It was too confusing.  Fifteen minutes into the lesson, I pulled over.  I shut off the stupid car and let my sister drive home.  I could practice there.  It would be safer that way.
* * *
A circular driveway surrounded our house, separating the lush lawn from the woods that secreted our home from the busy state highway.  Lining the driveway was an army of massive boulders my father had culled from the back field.  Fifty-foot pine trees kept watch over those majestic stones, shading them and allowing thick moss and ivy to grow up along them.  Perfect.  Test.  Track.
That evening after dinner, I went to my car, popped the sunroof and switched on the radio.  I turned the key.  The engine sputtered…and caught!  At a rate of no more than three miles per hour, I pulled towards the front of the house.  So far, so good.  I sat up confidently and tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of Queen’s “Bicycle Race.” Ahead, there was a slight grade: I had to accelerate a bit to make it up.  Too fast.  I was going to crash into the fence and let the cows escape from the pasture.  I was…
Quickly, I steered to the right and hit the brakes.  The car lurched.  Again, the brakes.  Another lurch.  I slammed the brakes tight against the floor of the car, pressing so hard I lifted myself from the red bucket seat with faux leather trim. 
But the brakes had failed.  The car began rolling down the driveway.  Faster and faster, I rolled backwards, the pine trees passing outside my window at what must have been a hundred miles an hour.  There was a terrific scraping and then, suddenly, I stopped, my practical little car caught up on the mountain range lining the driveway.
I had the sense to cut the engine before opening the door.  I jumped from the car as it teetered precariously on its undercarriage and ran, sobbing, to get my father.  An hour later, from an upstairs window, I watched my dad laughing with the tow truck driver as his assistant wound the winch before leaving to get a different—larger—truck to drag my car from the rocks. 
When the car was finally free, my dad got in to drive it to the back of the house.  “You can’t drive it, Dad.  The brakes don’t work.”  I wanted him to go right to the dealership; to demand my money back; to punish that salesman for having taken advantage of me. 
“These brakes are fine,” he said, his foot depressing the pedal I’d sworn was the clutch.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Driving Lessons

Monday, June 20, 2011

Driving Lessons

This post was written in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club:
The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing
Unfortunately, I was able to fill in the blanks with crashed and buying a car

“Here’s a nice one.” The salesman pointed to a red Dodge Charger hatchback.  “Bucket seats.  AM/FM.  Reliable.  Practical.” 
Practical wasn’t an image I was shooting for.
“It has a sunroof.  Wanna’ take it for a test drive?”  He held up his hands and mimed driving. 
I nodded, feeling the hot vinyl of the steering wheel beneath my fingers.  I got in the car and bucked my seatbelt.  I reached for the keys dangling alluringly from the ignition.  And there, in the center of the vehicle was...  “But I don’t drive stick…”
“Oh, well…I’ll just drive it for you then.” 
We exchanged seats.  The salesman cranked up the radio and popped open the sunroof.  He pulled onto the street and changed gears, all the while extolling the virtues of the car over Madonna’s “Material Girl.” 
We returned to the dealership.  The salesman casually draped his arm across the steering wheel.  “Whaddya’ think?”
* * *
My father insisted that my sister give me lessons.  Kathy went over the basics: clutch, brake, shifting, and we were off, the car rocking violently every time we arrived at a stop light, my sister shouting, “the clutch! Hit the clutch!” while other drivers and pedestrians, too, pointed and laughed with open mouths.  
Brake.  Clutch.  It was too confusing.  Fifteen minutes into the lesson, I pulled over.  I shut off the stupid car and let my sister drive home.  I could practice there.  It would be safer that way.
* * *
A circular driveway surrounded our house, separating the lush lawn from the woods that secreted our home from the busy state highway.  Lining the driveway was an army of massive boulders my father had culled from the back field.  Fifty-foot pine trees kept watch over those majestic stones, shading them and allowing thick moss and ivy to grow up along them.  Perfect.  Test.  Track.
That evening after dinner, I went to my car, popped the sunroof and switched on the radio.  I turned the key.  The engine sputtered…and caught!  At a rate of no more than three miles per hour, I pulled towards the front of the house.  So far, so good.  I sat up confidently and tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of Queen’s “Bicycle Race.” Ahead, there was a slight grade: I had to accelerate a bit to make it up.  Too fast.  I was going to crash into the fence and let the cows escape from the pasture.  I was…
Quickly, I steered to the right and hit the brakes.  The car lurched.  Again, the brakes.  Another lurch.  I slammed the brakes tight against the floor of the car, pressing so hard I lifted myself from the red bucket seat with faux leather trim. 
But the brakes had failed.  The car began rolling down the driveway.  Faster and faster, I rolled backwards, the pine trees passing outside my window at what must have been a hundred miles an hour.  There was a terrific scraping and then, suddenly, I stopped, my practical little car caught up on the mountain range lining the driveway.
I had the sense to cut the engine before opening the door.  I jumped from the car as it teetered precariously on its undercarriage and ran, sobbing, to get my father.  An hour later, from an upstairs window, I watched my dad laughing with the tow truck driver as his assistant wound the winch before leaving to get a different—larger—truck to drag my car from the rocks. 
When the car was finally free, my dad got in to drive it to the back of the house.  “You can’t drive it, Dad.  The brakes don’t work.”  I wanted him to go right to the dealership; to demand my money back; to punish that salesman for having taken advantage of me. 
“These brakes are fine,” he said, his foot depressing the pedal I’d sworn was the clutch.

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22 Comments:

At June 21, 2011 at 6:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Word limits.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Beautiful, yeah. But dumb idea.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:21 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'd love to get another stick shift, but my husband doesn't know how to drive and I don't think we can put my parents through another episode with the rocks...

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:22 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

"It wasn't dented when I bought it." Always happens that way, doesn't it? A year after my husband and I got our new car, I was rear-ended. Next time, I'm buying used.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 7:15 AM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

Kell - I too bought my first car without knowing how to drive a stick. On my first lesson, I hit a dog. It was horrible. I don't remember teaching you to drive stick, you have a better memory than I do, but I DO remember your car balancing on what I thought was a rock. LOL - good one.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 7:31 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

You hit a dog? One of ours? Did it survive? I can't believe you don't remember teaching me--or maybe you blocked out the memory. Driving down Route 91, lurching and stalling out, sure we were going to get into an accident. But, no, I saved that for the rock...I mean mountain range.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 8:57 AM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

The dog was not ours. I was trying to get up Durthicks (sp?) hill and a dog from the farm at the bottom of the hill darted out in front of me. He ran away, so I don't know what became of him. I had to go to the door and tell the owners what had happened. It was not a fun experience.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:01 AM , Anonymous Bella said...

OMG, Kelly, that last line made me laugh out loud! What a lovely piece of writing! So descriptive I could see your every move! I've never learned how to drive stick, even though I've had a lesson or two. It's too complicate for me! :)

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:47 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

She left out the part when the first tow truck left.... She came rushing outside from the curtian she was hiding behind. "What happend" she said wondering why the car was still tettering on the rocks. I told her "They can't get it off, but with the sun roof it ought to make a good planter.' Picture a disaster face!...I let her suffer a min or so, then I told her they went to get a bigger truck. I think this is one of the things she never forgave me for.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:52 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Oh, no! What did they do?

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:53 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

That part was, indeed in my original post, there, but, again, I had to work within word limits and a girl can only stand so much humiliation in one day. I think I've met my quota.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:56 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Well my sister or I could always set you up in lesson...

 
At June 21, 2011 at 10:11 AM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

they were great about it. I think they just wanted to get the sobbing/hyperventilating 19 year old girl off their porch. I could not drive my car home after that.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM , Anonymous Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

Oh, no!!! If it makes you feel any better, I had a similar experience...with a golf cart. Now, a golf cart doesn't have a clutch. Just a brake and gas...and yet, I still managed to wreck the darn thing. I was a beverage cart girl, and as I was headed down one of the hills near the clubhouse, I apparently forgot the difference between the gas and the brake and ended up wrecking right into one of the golf club member's brand spanking new truck. I was so embarrassed I quit the job!

I've never had the guts to drive a stick shift. Good for you for trying! And thanks for sharing your hilarious (laughing WITH you not AT you) memory!

Stopping by from RDC.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 7:27 PM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

Oh my! The action! The adventure! I'm a horrid driver and could relate to -ahem- certain aspects of this.

I loved the short vignettes. You painted the picture scene by scene.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

My husband drives a stick, and I still can't drive it. I mean, if it was an emergency, maybe. But not up a hill. Sigh.

I thought you did an excellent job with this. The details of the songs playing in different segments of the story really help to set the mood.

 
At June 22, 2011 at 5:26 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Angela,
I got up the hill just fine. It was the going down backwards that stumped me! Thanks for reading!

 
At June 22, 2011 at 5:28 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Galit!

 
At June 22, 2011 at 5:29 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yikes. How long had you been on the job, Katie?
I actually kept that car and went on to buy another stick which I kept until my husband and I had our first child and then we got a *really* practical car.

 
At June 22, 2011 at 3:36 PM , Anonymous PearlsGirl said...

I absolutely love this! What a picture. I think we have almost all had a similar experience with a clutch. I STILL drive an automatic. Funny, sweet, descriptive, great post!!

PearlGirl

 
At June 22, 2011 at 3:37 PM , Anonymous PearlsGirl said...

I love this. I think we have all had a similar experience with a clutch. I STILL drive an automatic. Funny, descriptive, great post!!

 
At June 22, 2011 at 6:53 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! Some day, I'll get another stick...

 

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