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.
SMART THINKING THERE MUM.
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.
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.