Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning the hard way.....

Christine over at Real Men Don't Watch American Idol got me thinking about my first job and that led me to think about some of the girls I worked with and that led me to remember an incident that probably aged me about 10 years.

I had been working for a couple years and I had only been married about 6 months when this incident occurred. My husband had been trying to teach me how to drive a stick shift. Now I want to pause right here and WARN everyone who doesn't already know this.....NEVER EVER have anyone you really care about try to teach you this particular skill....especially your husband or boyfriend. He had a 1955 Ford at the time and we would go out in the evenings and he would try to teach me how to drive and manually shift at the same time. I knew the fundamentals of it....I understood what it was supposed to do...I knew where the gears were located but something strange happened between the coordination of my left foot and my right foot and I would jerk the car and of course stall it. I think I was eventually called every name that meant idiot or stupid and then some. I was called names that I didn't even know the meaning of. He said over and over that he just could NOT understand how ANYONE could be so ignorant that they could not do something as simple as this. I eventually got indignant over the whole thing and told him to stick it up his a$$ and said I'd never let him teach me another thing as long as I managed to live. My car was an automatic so I figured I never needed to know how to drive a stick shift anyway. So there!

Part of the job I did was work after banking hours microfilming checks. Well, this one particular day, one of the teen-aged girls I worked with (the bank where we worked employed seniors in high school on a part time basis) spilled red ink all over her skirt. She immediately burst into tears, saying that her mom was going to "kill" her. I didn't live too far from work and had a washer and dryer in the apartment building that I could use. The plan was for me to take her skirt (she put on a smock that looked like a housecoat that we kept at work to wear over our clothes when we had a messy job to do) and take it home and wash it, dry it, iron it and bring it back to work. Only problem was.....it was a Saturday and I didn't drive that day, my husband had brought me into work and would be picking me up later. He was at his brother's helping him work on a car. So she tossed me her keys and said....take my car, its parked alongside the building...a blue Ford Falcon. I grabbed her skirt and out I went. I found her car, unlocked it, got in and to my dismay noticed THREE pedals on the floor. CRAP! A stick shift. Now I could abort the whole mission and go back inside and announce that I was TOO STUPID to drive a stick shift or I could WING it with what I already knew. I chose to save face and try it.

This is city traffic I'm talking about. No country roads so I couldn't just take my time. I had approximately 3 miles to drive, about 4 traffic lights and 2 stop signs to maneuver. I can't tell you how many times I stalled her little car, how many times I nearly gave myself whiplash by jerking it as I started to move in first gear.....how many cars were lined up behind me with drivers chewing on their steering wheels. I was humiliated and embarrassed and was yelled at and honked at by so many irate drivers that its a wonder it didn't go down in the annals of history. There were fists being waved out car windows as well as obscenities turning the air blue. I truly expected to see hundreds of villagers with torches and pitchforks following in my wake. If I could have thrown on a red wig and sunglasses to disguise myself I would have. It was that bad.

I figured out that once I got out of first gear I didn't do a bad job so I did everything possible to not EVER go into first gear if I could possibly help it. If I didn't have to stop, then I didn't have to go into first gear. Worked for ME. After aging 10 years I got to my apartment, washed that skirt and got the ink out. I dried it, ironed it and took it back to her. I wasn't quite as bad on the trip back but I still managed to jerk and stall that poor little car several times. She was so happy about her skirt and hugged me and thanked me over and over. I just kept thinking to myself....I hope that transmission doesn't fall out on her way home tonight. Did I ever tell her that I didn't really know how to drive a stick shift? Yeah.....SURE I did. Just like I told her that I stalled that little car of hers about a hundred times.

So basically I learned how to drive a stick shift the hard way. I can drive one alright now if I have to but I don't like to.....and I still will do everything in my power to stay OUT of first gear.
Oh yeah.....and I never told my husband about my experience either. The way I figure it....if he would have been a better teacher.........I'm just sayin'


Smocha said...

OMG! A stick shift story after my own heart.LOL

I was also "stick shiftily impaired"
At one point(back in the olden days) my spouse bought a Cougar or something that was a stick shift. I knew the concept of how it worked....BUTTTTT when HE tried to teach me how to drive it, I had never seen such a beast or heard such foul language come from his mouth.
It was so horrendous ,I said "forget you!!!" and I never did learn to drive that stupid car.
Fast forward about 5 years . I was no longer with Mr. Patient .
I was however dating a guy who had had his hand cut off by a worm drive saw. They had been able to reattach it but he was still having problems with it.
Well one fateful day I went with him to his appointment at the hospital, 70 miles away ,in his room mates car.
Imagine my HORROR when they admitted him because his arm was infected!
I had babies at home. I had no choice but to drive that poor car home. Dying every time I had to stop(the car, not me).
Cars honking, being hateful.
I learned the "hard way " too and in hindsight, sometimes the "hard way " is the easiest way :)
BTW, about a month later everything liquid suddenly fell out of that poor car. To this day I feel like it was MY fault.

I love you Kevin, sorry I ruined your car.

I can not see why anyone would deliberately go thru the trouble of driving a damn stick shift!
It's like doing the laundry on a rock when you have a washing machine.


SOUL: said...

i think smochas right-- ya gotta do whatchya gotta do.
first time i drove a stick? was the moment i paid for it. i didn't even test drive it-- and this was in san diego cal. hills hills everywhere. i stalled at one redlight -at the top of a hill... i kept rolling back and bumping a motorcycle! finally the guy got off his bike and drove my car through the intersection! i was mortified. but thank god for sweet biker angels. :))

and hey-- thank God for you too-- i loved what you said on my page the other day-- it really meant a lot to me...
i hope you know i have been extremely busy lately-- soon i will be slowin down to my normal life once again. and i won't wait three days to tell you how special i think you are.
or-- what's the sign in the web say--
love ya charlotte--
sweet dreams.

Dear Liza said...

Seems we all have our stick shift horrors! Someday, maybe I'll write a post about mine. Thanks for taking the time to share this very funny story. Hugs, good friend. :)

PS..you are such a good friend to take the skirt home and wash it in the first place!

fiwa said...

I just love you for being so sweet to that poor girl.

Man, learning to drive a stick is so hard! I had a stick for my first car, and I can remember driving it for a quite awhile without going into 4th - I was afraid of 4th because it was right next to reverse, and I was scared I would try to put it into 4th and up it in reverse instead. Teehee...

And my friend learned how to drive a stick while on vacation in Costa Rica. She said their maps were terrible, most streets didn't have street names posted and she had NO CLUE how to drive a stick. Apparently it was quite the terrifying ordeal.

Thanks for the giggles. :)

happyone said...

That is so funny!! At least you made it home and back!!
No horror stories from me about driving a stick shift.
My husband taught me how to drive a motorcycle and then a stick shift. I must say I didn't have a problem and today I drive a stick shift. I think shifting makes driving fun - I love driving my Corvette!!!

josie2shoes said...

Boy did this bring back memories! In high school my older sister and I shared a car, and my Dad decided to replace it with one that had a standard transmission. She caught on quickly but coordination was never my middle name and despite an afternoon of his coaching/yelling/exasperation, I couldn't get the hang of it either. He drove home in disgust with me humiliated,and promptly sold the car. Twenty some years later I married a guy who had a truck with standard transmission. When my car died I had to learn to drive his, and I did - though not gracefully. I could drive one now if I just had to, but I'd still worry about ruining that transmission and I'd remember to take a wig and sunglasses along! :-) Thanks for the daybrightener post and for convincing me I wasn't the only one who struggled with this!

Loz said...

You're right about not teaching anyone you know. Very first time I took my oldest son out, within 5 seconds of starting the car we ended up in a meter deep ditch :)

Brad said...

Love it. I'm no good at manual tranmissions either. I can make the car go just fine, but if I drive a manual car for any time at all it suddenly needs a new tranny - Hmmmm....

boneman said...

well, my old Ford Truck isn't so bad. I start from a standstill in second gear. It does OK.
Course, my problem with it is that it has a leaky gas tank.
Uh-oh. No smoking around me, eh?

Cheryl said...

An old friend taught me how to drive a stick way back in the 70's in his old VW bug. He had the patience of a saint. After a while, I just got it. I've owned a stick, but won't ever again. Too much work. I loved your story.

ordinaryjanet said...

I never learned. I know I don't have the coordination necessary for all that.

desert dirt diva said...

After i figured out how to drive one, in a k-mart parking lot, my friend donna took her b/fs car and we went to k-mart and she told me to drive, we had the best time, a little whiplash, a lot of laughter....but i kinda figured it out......the good ole days....

Dear Liza said...

How are you this morning, how was your weekend, how are things with your kids? I hope all is quiet, for me lately, thats the best I can hope for. Loveya. :)

Joy Des Jardins said...

Just checking in with you Val. How are you doing sweetie? Hope you are okay. I was just thinking about you. Love, Joy

Dear Liza said...

Okay, now where are you?

Hugs. Lots of Friday hugs.