Tales from first gear

gears copy

My parents don’t have internet. They don’t know how to text, have never sent an email or looked something up on the world wide web. They do know what it is, which is good, I guess. They know that I can look anything up and get an answer for them pretty quickly, but still, they fight the fight.

They also know that I write a blog. Well, my mom knew. The other day, she was telling my father about my post Tania, where’s the lake?

He told my mom to tell me to fax it to him! She told my dad that it’s on the internet and you can’t do that!

So I called him and read it to him.

My dad laughed so hard! He thoroughly enjoyed hearing my exact transcript of how every conversation would go and then he suggested that I should write about the time he tried to teach me how to drive a standard car.

So here you go!

I was in grade 11 when I got my license. Because both my parents drove standard, and I didn’t, I got to drive a BIG, BAD, BEAT-UP pick-up truck with cab on the back and no rear-view mirror. (It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because I couldn’t see with that cab on the back)

After that, I got a red Camaro. Please remember that this was 1992, and driving a 1985 Camaro didn’t quite hold the same glamour it did seven years earlier when it came out. But whatever, I was lucky to have my own car, so I made the best of the gas guzzler.

Right before I started college, my parents decided they were going to get me a Pontiac Firefly. Problem was, it was going to be a standard car. I wasn’t even going to be able to drive my own car!? “No worries,” my dad said. “I’ll teach you. It’s easy.”

Famous last words!

My dad borrowed his friend’s car, a beat up Mercedes Benz that he used as a loaner car for his body shop. We drove to the mall parking lot, where my dad proceeded to show me all the gears, how to find reverse and how to use the clutch. Then we switched places and I got to try all the gears, find reverse and test my clutch/gear coordination. Then my father did the unthinkable!

He got out!

I will never forget that moment. He got out of the car, lit a cigarette (he smoked at the time) and leaned against a light post.


“What!? Go where?” I thought he was kidding. I didn’t really learn anything yet. How can he expect me to drive?

“Go. Go around the parking lot and come back. You’ll be fine,” he said with a grin. Actually, it was more like a smirk. He was pretty much laughing at me.

But I went. I have to try, right? So off I went, revving too high, popping and jumping and then I got to the stop sign that was in front of the entrance to The Bay. People crossed in front of me and I waited.

I started to sweat.

And then I stalled the car. I started it again, jerked forward an inch and stalled it again. I looked up at my dad who was making some hand motions that I think meant put it in first, slowly release the clutch and slowly apply the gas, but who can understand anything when you have tears in your eyes, you are sweating and want to just leave the car there and walk home!

And he still had that smirk on his face!

After what felt like an hour, but was probably only two minutes, I finally found first gear, and made my way to my dad. I turned off the car, jumped out and started to cry. And he laughed. I told him to save his money and I’ll just take the bus to school. (I can be was known a bit dramatic at times)

He took me out a few more times and eventually I got the hang of it.

Not MY Firefly, but it looked just like this.
Not MY Firefly, but it looked just like this.

Then I got my Firefly and after getting lost on my way to a party, I pretty much mastered how to drive a standard car. And for the record, I loved that car.

Looking back, that day at the mall was funny. But of course, I won’t be telling my dad that when I read him this post!

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