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.

On the road, again

1. Fly from Halifax to Philadelphia. For 2.5 hours read Tempest Tost by Roberston Davies and laugh like a drain.

2. Wait in PHL for 45 min for your connecting flight to Seattle. Scarf down a salad with tuna but no dressing.  Lament this dearth of dressing. Wait in line for 10 minutes to purchase peanut M&Ms and yogurt covered blueberries, but abandon both when you hear your flight’s boarding has started.

3. Fly from Philly to Seattle. Sleep restlessly for most of the six hour flight. Eat a massive cinnamon bun, a bag of Chex Mix, and a very limited 100 calorie Pepperidge Farm cookie snack pack. Read more Robertson Davies. Doze.

4. Feel like a creeper, because as you try to look out the window – to watch the beautiful night lights as you descend into Seatac – you realize that you are leaning just a little too close to the man sitting to your left.

5. Exit the plane, and head straight for the Park N’ Fly pick-up station. Embrace the cold as it hits your recycled air drained skin. Breathe deeply.

6. Board the Park N’ Fly shuttle. Bounce along the highway until you reach the parking lot. Decide who will drive the first leg of the excursion home.

7. Pay for 9 days worth of car storage.

8. Settle into the passenger seat. Tell your love that even though it’s 11:30 at night, and you have quite a ways to go just to get home, it still feels like a grand adventure. Also let him know that you will switch as soon as he wants a break.

9. Get on the I-5.

10. Relish in the late-night beauty of it all. Talk little. Feel close.

11. Encounter fog. A lot of it.

12. Pull off for gas. Despair about the fact that the closed gas station doesn’t have a bathroom. Pee in the bushes. Fear that someone is either going to come grab you, or, alternatively, take damning photos of you squatting in the bushes.

13. Get back on the freeway.

14. Start to feel drowsy. Will yourself to stay awake for the sake of your husband. Laugh a little when he tells you that he wants to switch because he too is getting tired.

15. Suggest milkshakes. They will, of course, quell hunger pains, and provide a much needed sugar rush.

16. Feel elated by how excited your husband is about the idea of milkshakes.

17. Take the first exit with fast food signs. Pull into the Wendy’s parking lot. Switch positions, and then drive into the drive-thru. Order a chocolate frosty for you, and a caramel frosty shake for your husband. Wonder what’s the difference between a frosty and frosty shake. Pay.

18. Get back on the freeway. Understand quickly that frostys were not meant to be eaten through a straw. Really flex those sucking muscles.

19. Get to the border. Literally pull up to the first (and only) agent because no one else is there. Answer three questions. Keep driving.

20. Try not to speed like a demon now that you are in your home country and so, so close to your home home.

21. Make a left, and then a right. Push the garage door opener and pull into your parking spot. Grab all your luggage and garbage and head to your front door. Wonder if the Christmas lights have been on all week. Insert your key into the door and greet your adorable cat who is prancing about your feet. Drop everything, pick her up and smother her in pats and kisses.

22. Remark that the house is freezing.

23. Ascend the stairs to your bedroom, jump into the nearest pair of pajamas. Floss and brush your teeth. Realize you left your mouth guard back at your mother’s house.

24. Wash your face.

25. Crawl into an absolutely freezing cold bed. Feel your husband’s arms around you. Tell him that your hair smells like an airplane. Feel his whole body laugh. Smile.