I’m an Excellent Driver

I have a specialized license plate. It’s a Doctor Who joke, and I can count on one hand the number of people who have gotten it without me explaining, but I’m still really proud of it. My car is a Chevy Sonic, so my license plate is meant to say “Screw Driver,” like a sonic screwdriver, right? Right. But because of character restrictions on personalized plates, the most common reaction I get is, “Is it SCARY DRIVER?”

The Tenth Doctor, as portrayed by David Tennant, holds up his blue and gray sonic screwdriver, a useful device that can do everything from unlock doors to put up cabinets.
Tenth doctor seen here with Sonic Screwdriver, although it could be argued that the Doctor is also something of a ‘scary driver,’ as well.

But maybe I just have that vibe. We are borrowing my parents’ pickup truck this week because my husband and I both have tiny little cars and there are some jobs that just require a truck, like hauling away old appliances or getting more than twelve bags of mulch. My husband also thought this would be the perfect opportunity to teach me to drive stick, which he has been very excited about for some time.

I’d like to point out here that I didn’t not know how to drive stick. I was pretty confident that I could do so in an emergency, but there would be a lot of false starts and grinding of gears and panic sweats. But I would eventually get to my destination.

In fact, my first driving lessons were in a manual vehicle. When I was not quite fifteen, my dad started teaching me in our old Toyota Corolla. It was a good choice for learning to drive: small, old, and already sporting a ding or two and missing at least one hubcap.

I hit a tree. I hit a tree before I even got out of the driveway. In my defense, it was my first ever driving lesson and for reasons that still elude me (and my dad, as well, as he has admitted when we’ve discussed this in the many years since), Dad started me out in our circle drive, which is on a not insignificant incline, and the inner part of the circle is edged with large rocks and several good sized trees (see my last post where I mentioned they live out in the country on several acres of woodland). I wasn’t going fast, obviously; I hadn’t made it out of first gear or gone more than 20 feet. But the driver side mirror got twisted to an unnatural angle in the event and the plastic cover over the turn signal light was cracked. On the other hand, the awful squeak that previously happened anytime we opened the driver door stopped, so hitting the tree wasn’t entirely a disaster.

Sometime between then and my sixteenth birthday, my parents traded in the Corolla for an Escape with automatic transmission, and I completed my driving lessons in that (and a handful of other automatic vehicles in driver’s ed).

So when Kalen got home from work today, he said, “Let’s go teach you to drive the truck!” and I found myself in a gravel parking lot getting a refresher on what the clutch does and how to avoid grinding the gears.

One of the very first things Kalen told me to do was to release the parking brake. The parking lot was empty, pretty level, and the nearest trees were way on the other side of the lot. I was feeling good. I tugged on the brake release handle.

It came clean off the dash. “Scary Driver” might actually have more truth to it than I care to admit.

The parking break release in my hand and the hole in the dash where it was previously affixed.
Insert “brake/break” joke here.

The wonky, dangling mirror on that old Corolla had snapped right back into place with only a little extra push, and thankfully so did the handle for the parking brake release. And after a little practice, I managed to drive around the parking lot several times, and even across a quiet part of town to a park and then back to our house, and then into the busiest part of town to Target. And I only killed the engine eight times (seven of those were at the same light, in what was mercifully the longest left turn arrow I have ever seen in my life). I didn’t hit any trees, or pedestrians, or other vehicles, or anything!

And now we are home (I would never be so reckless as to blog while driving), and I’m going to have a celebratory popsicle. Tomorrow I might even try to drive to Lowe’s to get some mulch, and if the stick shift is too intimidating, I can always just get twelve bags in the back of my Sonic.

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