Beep, beep, beep, YEAH

I learned to drive at the relatively regular age of seventeen.

By this point in my life, my parents had split up, and both of them drove manual transmission cars. This meant that I either learned how to drive a stick shift, or, well, take the bus for the remainder of my days.

Now, driving may come naturally to many a-folk, but for me, the double whammy of being a new driver, and having to learn how to (properly) use a clutch, was a little overwhelming. I was the kind of kid that forgot which pedal was the brake, and which was the gas, much to the chagrin of every person who sat shotgun for the first couple of months of my driving career.

So throw in a third, very finicky, but very integral mechanism within close reach of these already confusing foot-operated instruments, and you had a pretty excellent recipe for disaster.

Recognizing the need for extra assistance, my mother signed me up for classes with the craziest driving teaching ever to grace the face of the planet.

First, the name guy’s was named Shaf.


Like, Shaft, but without the T.

Oh, and he didn’t have a last name.

(Also like Shaft.)

During our hour long sojourns about the city, I would sing in my head “SHAF! He’s one bad motherfu….”

(You can imagine just how concentrated I was on my education.)

Anyways, the problem with Shaf was that, without telling me as much, he was doing the majority of the shifting/gear changing during our time together.

This ended up giving me a crazy over-inflated sense of my own driving skills, so by the end of my third lesson, I thought that I had pretty much mastered every gear shift – not to mention the always trickiest thing to learn: getting the car going again WITHOUT STALLING after coming to a complete stop.

With my giant ego in full effect, I told my mother that I was ready to start taking out our car for real-life practice runs.

Luckily, she was still a little weary of just how far I could have progressed in a mere three hours, so she told me that I could take the car, but I could only drive around the parking lot up at UBC, and then the (maybe) five minute drive home, from the campus to our driveway.

Also, I would be accompanied by my older sister, so she could both supervise, and give me pointers and tips as needed.

Now, it should be mentioned here and now that Kate, though a terrific teacher, had recently undergone major surgery to repair a torn ACL, which made her competently incapable of taking over in case of an emergency.

Thinking back, I’m pretty sure my mother’s thinking was something along these lines:

Well, if Vanessa doesn’t know how to drive when I drop her off at the parking lot, she certainly will by the time she leaves.


Anyways, the afternoon ended up being a complete gong show and a half.

I right away realized that I really still had absolutely no idea what I was doing behind the wheel, and Kate, desperate and completely uncomfortable sitting in the passenger seat as I stalled six thousand times, just kept yelling out, “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE!”

Wiser words were never spoken.

The drive home was harrowing and a half – I tried everything in my power to never actually stop, for fear that I would never get the car going again, and then somehow ended up parallel parking the car in our driveway.

But like all things in life, I eventually learned.

Up until recently, my long-serving and much loved steed.
Up until recently, my long-serving and much loved steed.

I passed my learner’s test of my first try (the fact that I did it on a standard is this silly little gold star in my life that will never, not make me smile), and then passed my graduated licensing test, also on my first attempt.

(Here in B.C. you are required to pass two tests.)

I even taught M how to drive stick shift in the early nascence of our courtship.

(I figure that’s a pretty good test of whether or not the relationship is made for the long haul.)

Now, I absolutely love driving, and can’t imagine myself ever commandeering anything but a manual car.

And sometimes when I’m behind the steering wheel, I still catch myself singing, “SHAF! You’re one bad mother…”

But only when I stall.

Which thank goodness, is rare indeed.

Published by

Vanessa Woznow

Writer, runner, ranter, reader. I write about all things.

24 thoughts on “Beep, beep, beep, YEAH”

  1. I learned to drive when I was roughly 14 and by the time I was 15 and a half I already been cruising about, But I never really got the hang of stick shift :( sigh!

  2. Glad you learned the art so well. My driving experience was pretty crazy as well. Three friends and a useless drivers ed teacher made for dangerous times.

  3. Very nice. Better than me, for sure. I never learned to drive a stick, or how to paralell melearned (not sure what we were paying my instructor for, actually), and I failed my first driving test by driving on the wrong side of the road for a while. It was a bad start for me.

    1. Honestly, learning to drive can be absolutely bonkers. Especially if you’re learning in a crazy busy city! There’s really something to be said for the deserted back road…

      Hopefully despite the bad start, the next try was much better! x

  4. I remember the torture of learning on a stick. I finally just stole the car and figured it out one day without anyone around to yell at me or make me a nervous wreck. Nothing like sitting on a steep hill at at a red light, looking in the mirror and hoping that nobody comes behind you! Everyone should know how to drive a stick!

    1. LOL! I love it. Oooer…the fear of starting on a hill! Every so often I have to take a deep breath before letting out the clutch if I find myself on the side of a monster incline…

      And yes, I completely agree. It’s a super important skill!

  5. I started out driving a snowmobile at 13 – went through permit training – couple years later got a farm permit to drive. I am a lead foot and love speed – beep, beep – get out of my way coming through – ha! Happy Monday:)

  6. Fang taught me to drive a stick shift. A sign of true love! Fangette takes her driving test on Friday! Fingers crossed that she passes!

  7. I loved the “Gong Show and a half!” That perfectly describes my driving lesson with my Dad! I too only had a stick shift to learn on. My dad drove me to a parking lot and described how to work the contraption and after I stalled 3 times he said I was “unteachable” and he drove us home (he clearly lacks patience). Anyway, I went with my Mom and eventually learned! I used to sell cars and a lot of people wanted Volkswagons but didn’t know how to drive stick shift. I have taught so many people in my life now how to drive stick shift! Until just a few years ago I always drove them because I actually preferred one….but alas now we require a minivan and unfortunately you just can’t get a minivan with a stick shift! Man, now I really miss my VW Jetta!

    1. I think it is pretty much the perfect way to describe learning how to drive! Also, your dad is hilarious (and evidently not a Buddhist.)

      Wow, you must know your stuff when it comes to cars! That is so awesome. :) I also dig it that you taught so many people (evidently also not with your Dad’s teaching style!)

      I loooove VWs so much (not just because those are my initials!) That golf was my baby! Now we have a Hyundai and I like it, but it’s just not the same.

  8. Oh I love it! The fact that you had a guy named Shaf “teach” you how to drive stick is hilarious and envisioning that drive with your poor sister had me howling!!
    Hey, huge gold star to you for taking your driving test in a manual, that’s impressive!
    Truth be told, I only learned to drive a stick exactly a year ago when I got my Jeep. I bought the rig and just had to learn as I went and I guess there’s really no other way to do it. :) I’m with you though, I love driving stick now (especially driving J’s Pontiac GTO, nothing like the roar of a muscle car).

    1. I know right!? I’ve never been more convinced of how important it is to have a last name to inspire confidence! Haha!

      There really is no other way to learn now to operate a stick-shift. Trial and error! I love your jeep, and I love the image of you driving a GTO even more! x

  9. thar warn’t nuthin’ but STYX when i lurnd 2 (try to) derive.
    the first time(s) i encountered a “automatic” i was suspicious and at first didn’t know what to do. Where’s the clutch? where’s the stick? Won’t it stall if i stop?
    nuff ’bout me. we live “in the sticks” and started teachin’ the kids to drive at about age 10.
    when my big-city sister came to visit, HER KIDS had already heard from mine about “driving lessons” and were pretty excited and my sister was concerned, as we did go out and drive down REAL ROADS. i said: “the only other people on these roads (way out north of town thru’ the corn-fields and cow-pastures) will be farmers on tractors and groups of under-age kids learning to ride motorcycles.”

    and, of course, i was right. not only my kids, but all the nephews and nieces learned to drive out there.

    1. Nothing but STYX – like the band? I can see that being true actually! :)

      I get your kids’ cousins were sooooo excited to come out and visit so they could learn how to drive. I know I would have been!

      1. 4t-u-nately ? i have no idea as to styx (the/a band). sorry, i wrote that azzz thatz how ‘sticks’ cometh oubt.
        but(t)! “beep beep beep yeah”? sounds like the title to a sawng, by the same banned my next post will feature. the idea wuzz poppulaytid into my head just last night.
        moovin rite awlawng: you apparently have mooocho materiel 4 your stand-up occasions. of course “your adoring fans” (and not really kidding, itz troo) are all too glad to help. lettuce know if sumuvuss have provided some material … (hint: colonoscopy)

        1. Lol! No worries – I was just making a little joke. I look forward to the post!

          Definitely have tons of material for the stand-up. I try to stay away too much from the colon-area inspired jokes. As much fun as they can be, I just don’t want to be known as the poop girl.

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