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Friday, 20 July 2007

Driving Lesson

By Susan Fisher of Suzzwords

When I was about fourteen, my dad decided it was time for me to learn to drive. He thought it was a good idea for him to teach me. He also thought it was not a bad idea to have my mother in the back seat.

Dad combined my driving lesson with a trip to see friends who lived in the woods down a dirt road, an excellent place to put me behind the wheel. As we struck out from home with Dad driving, he offered no formal introduction to the workings of the engine or those pedal things on the floor or any details about what that "stick" thing was actually used for, just, "Watch me until we get to the dirt road."

Now my dad also had a colorful way of speaking and punctuated almost every sentence with nouns, adjectives and verbs that I was not allowed to use – at least not within hearing of my parents. It was summer, it was hot and humid, the mosquitoes were swarming, and the old blue Plymouth, though roomy, was air-conditioned only by open windows and the breeze provided by Mother Nature.

Since I was tall and gawky, petrified by the dire warnings coming from the back seat non-driver, and had an attention span as long as a gnat's ear, I was a perfect student. We got to the dirt road and the lesson began. "That's the gas, push down when you want to go forward or backward. That's the brake, take your foot off the gas and push the brake to stop. That's the clutch, push it down with your left foot at the same time you move this shift lever to a higher or lower gear. Okay, let's go."

I authoritatively grasped the steering wheel with both hands and put my feet where Dad pointed. "Push in the clutch, put it in first and press slowly on the gas as you let out the clutch. We lurched, the gears made horrible grinding sounds and the car came to a dead stop. "Oh, #*%!#!*&. Okay, start the car again. "

Dad loudly repeated the instructions, the volume of his voice adjusted to drown out the moaning, prayer offering, and admonitions coming from the back seat.

After a few more attempts to "put it in #*%!#!* first" and a lot of lurching, I finally got the hang of what the clutch and stick were designed to do and we crept forward. "Now go a little faster and turn the wheel in the direction of this curve coming up."

Wow! So this is what driving is all about. All you have to do is push a few pedals and turn the wheel. Okay, slight curve navigated and I'm driving!

"Now slow down, the next curve is harder. #*%!#!*, I said slow down! Push the #*%!#!* brake, no, no, not that one. Push the #*%!#!* brake!"

I failed to navigate the curve and we were taking a nice slow trip through the woods, over the palmettos, across the fallen limbs, and headed for a sapling pine, my foot lightly frozen in fear to the gas pedal. A wail was coming from the back seat and finally, "We're going to die, oh, my dear God in Heaven, we're all going to die."

"Oh, #*%!#!*, move your #*%!#!* foot," Dad yelled above the wailing and the sound of the Plymouth neatly pushing over the sapling. I felt Dad's foot come down on the side of mine just as I yanked it off the gas. His left foot stomped the brake, the sapling crashed to the ground, my mother passed out in the back seat, and someone from the house who had come to witness my tour yelled, "Timber!"

The engine died and there was silence – total silence.

Then my dad calmly said, "Okay, that's enough #*%!#!* driving for today. Not bad for your first time. Switch seats and I'll drive up to the house. Oh, and help your mother off the floor."

That was my last driving lesson from my dad. Two years later I was enrolled in the high school driver ed program.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The Elder Storytelling Place is running short of new stories again, so if you have something that you've been meaning to send in, now would be a good time.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Suzz, I'm laughing so hard here! You must have been a wreck! The ex and I copped out on teaching the Dynamic Duo to drive and left it to the pros rather than wind up like your mom.


Do I remember this sooo well. My older brother decided to teach me one boring Sunday afternoon. The difference between our first lesson was that he had three of his "buddies" on the running boards cheering me on. Mother, also a non driver, just calmly sat on the front porch rocking in her chair content that I was in "good hands." She lived to be 100. Wonder why.

You remind me of my wife's story about her father teaching her mother how to drive. I required all three of my girls to wait till their 17th to learn, but also insisted they learn with a stick-shift. They all thank me now, but we did, indeed, have a few humerous moments during the lessons.....

Couldn't do it. Too many tears. I finally learned at 45! And even then, automatic only.

Oh what a funny story. I will be laughing all morning. We all remember our first driving lessons with a shudder; especially, if a loved one tried to teach us. You were wise to leave the next lesson to a professional.

OMG...there's nothing like "panic training" to learn how to drive a moving weapon. YIKES! I'm surprised your mom was the only one to pass out Suzz. This was hilarious.

What a hoot!! My dad finally taught me how to drive -- he was a very determined man. Your story brings back wonderful memories.

Sheeesh! I thought my first driving lessons were hard - yours was a riot! Thanks for sharing....LOL

I loved your driving lesson story,Susan. It was so funny.

I remember when my husband came back from his first driving lesson with our 16 year old daughter. He came in the house and kissed the floor.

Suzz, I am laughing and hooting; what a great way to wake up on a Saturday morning! There must be something about dads and daughters and driving. My intrepid father (USAF officer and sharp shooter) gave me my first lesson. And get this: he tried to sit between (me in the driver's seat)--and the driver's door! Now, he WAS rather smallish in stature, but honestly! He had plastered himself up the left side of the vehicle like a giant spider. Has anyone ever tried to drive like that, much less learn? Upon our return home, my mom took one look at my dad and announced, "I will teach her how to drive."

Great story Suzz, it seems most folk have memories of some traumas about their early driving days, I took to it like a duck to water.

Wonderful story, expertly told. Brings back so many "learning to drive" memories.

Hysterical story. My dad started to teach me how to drive on a Chevy with a clutch. I was trying to turn around in a residential intersection when I suddenly decided I couldn't do it. My dad got out of the car and walked around in back to get in the driver's seat. My moment of rescue was at hand; I lifted my foot off the brake. There was a loud shout from in back and I slammed my foot
back down. That ended my interaction with a clutch. About eight years later I learned to drive at the YWCA.

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