It’s Standard Procedure

“Real women drive stick shift cars.” – Anonymous

 

Have you ever noticed how sometimes in life the thing you avoid because it’s something new, turns out to be something you love? In my last week’s column I alluded to my joy in driving a car with a standard transmission. Well, that wasn’t always the case.

When I enrolled in driver’s education back in high school, all of my training occurred in a car with an automatic transmission. I never did need to drive our old truck out on the farm, so there was no need for me to learn otherwise. It wasn’t until I was in university that a need did arise.

My husband (at that time, fiancée) was going into the hospital to have knee surgery and he had just purchased a Toyota Corolla which had a standard transmission. (I shall pause here for a second, so that some of you can recover from the shock of learning that Ken actually owned something other than a GM product.)

Because he would be unable to use the clutch, I would be required to drive which meant learning how to drive a standard transmission. We had known this for quite a while, but typical of most procrastinators, had delayed lessons until the week before Ken’s operation. So out we went to a quiet, country road so he could teach me. First of all, husbands teaching wives anything (especially golf, but that’s another story) never works very well, and the same holds true for boyfriends and girlfriends, or any other such relationships.

We had time for only two lessons, where I learned the basics, but my clutch release and acceleration co-ordination wasn’t very smooth. So there I was lurching and jerking along that dirt road, and, after some well-meaning but frustrating instructions from Ken, which I didn’t accept very graciously, he gave up and proclaimed, “You’re good to go!”

And so it was that I found myself driving across the city of Saskatoon with minimal experience, trying to navigate the traffic (after all, I still was a small town gal) and focussing intently on shifting gears. My biggest fear was stalling the vehicle at an intersection which would prompt honking horns and curses from other frustrated, impatient drivers. So whenever I had to stop for a red light, I would anticipate the light change and start revving up the engine getting ready to move with the traffic.

I’m sure that every driver beside me thought I was taunting them to drag, so I just looked straight ahead not wanting to make any eye contact or to see their smirks. It did mean that I often squealed out from the intersection which, no doubt, produced even more laughter. (To be fair, that little Toyota was pretty zippy.)

But with each passing day I got better and better, and soon grew to enjoy driving that car. Necessity had thrust me into a scary situation which actually turned out to be a good thing.

A few years later we purchased a GTO with a standard transmission and a big motor. When I pulled up to an intersection in that car and revved the motor, I meant business!

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