Thursday, May 26, 2011

Learning to drive

Growing up, we never had normal cars.  When I was little, before my parents split up, we had what were actually considered to be cool cars.  A Dodge Charger. 

Like this but brown and without the hood thingy.

A Ford Maverick. 

Ours was blue but otherwise identical.

An Opel Kadet.  I don't remember that one so I can't post a pic.  I think it was around a '68 or '69.

Later, we had cars with quirks.  Most of that was due to having ten year old cars (a '70s vintage Cadillac, one of those boat sized station wagons, a 1973 Ford pickup) with no fuel injection.  So you had to warm them up.  For about an hour before you could go anywhere.  If ever you had to get going before the car was warmed up, you had to keep one foot on the gas and use your other foot for the brake. 

The 1973 Ford F-series pickup -- we called it Old Blue -- was the first car I ever tried to learn to drive in.  It was an automatic and I'd never driven a stick so I didn't have that right foot/left foot coordination thing going on like you have with a stick shift. 

Ours was a slightly lighter shade of blue.

I say "tried to learn to drive in" because one day we had to go to the grocery store and since it was close my mom said I could drive.  I had my learner's permit and I'd done some driving at that point without incident.

All in a fully warmed up truck.

For some reason we couldn't wait for the truck to warm up fully.  Mom said no problem, just keep your foot on the gas and use your left foot to brake.  Okey dokey.

All went relatively well until we had to make a right turn.  Remember, this is a gigantic full size 1973 Ford pickup.  It's made of steel.  Gravity works.  And did I mention that there was no gas pedal?  You had the metal prong thingy there, but no actual pedal covering it. 

So, I've got one foot on the gas non-pedal and one foot on the brake.  And we need to slow down to make this right turn.  My mom's yelling at me to slow down and I'm pushing down hard on the brake.  Except my braking foot is currently on the gas.  So we're actually going faster with every second.  Towards this poor guy in his car who is waiting to pull out of the street I'm trying to turn on to.  He's in a little Honda or Toyota.  I'm in this steel tank and approaching ramming speed. 

His eyes got SO BIG. 

I managed to make the turn at about 35 mph, fish tailing the back end, the whole nine yards.  Miraculously missed that poor guy who probably was now sitting in a wet seat.  I immediately come to a stop at the curb and I turned to my mom and yelled "I told you I couldn't drive with my foot on the gas the whole time!" 

My mom switched places with me.  

That was in early 1986 and we still laugh about it until we cry to this day.  In fact, we just talked about it last month.  Most of their cars now, you get in them and you drive away.  However, they do have a truck -- sadly, not Old Blue, it retired many moons ago, but not before it blew out a rod one day while I was driving on the freeway to high school -- that has starter or solenoid problems, necessitating one person behind the wheel while another is under the hood using a screwdriver to get it started.  Last month my stepdad skipped the person behind the wheel part, which resulted in the truck flying backwards and taking out their garage door.  And luckily not him or the many highly flammable and/or expensive to replace items in the garage. 

That incident with Old Blue was also when I wouldn't let my mom teach me how to drive anymore.  She's a little high strung and hysterical shrieking while hanging on to the oh shit handle and slamming on the imaginary brake does not lend itself well to a learning envirnoment.  My stepdad was out of the question -- one of us would end up dead -- so the task fell to my dad. 

My dad was the most awesome driving instructor.  He took me out in his 1984 full-sized Ford Bronco.  (Tanks are good cars in which to learn how to drive.)  I loved that Bronco.  I didn't want to destroy it.  But he said I wouldn't and so off we went.

Dad's was dark brown with stripes down the side.  I loved that SUV.

Through no fault of the Bronco, those with stick shifts had a what is known as a granny gear.  Meaning you don't use first gear unless you're in four wheel drive and hauling something the size of a T-Rex.  A little odd but you get used to it.

The first time he took me out, somehow I had problems negotiating a turn (I was an excellent driver on the straightaways) and ended up bonking into a low stone wall and sort of in a ditch.  I was prepared for all sorts of yelling and screaming about how I was the village idiot, but my dad?  Just said to put the car in reverse and back up.  So I did.  A reminder that we needed to start in second gear and off we went.  So mellow.  I think I could've blown the car up and he just would've shrugged and said it was just a car.

And that's how I learned to drive.

the CilleyGirl


  1. I love this post! I was cracking up so hard picturing the old man with big eyes peeing himself - then you hit me with the other truck flying backwards and I think I almost let out an audible giggle. When I say "cracking up" I mean internally laughing since I am at work and should be looking all serious and working.

    Just fabulous!

  2. '56 Chevy - "Three On The Tree"

    Almost took out a gas pump plus attendent one fine afternoon.

    Good times!

  3. Poor old man, he probably peed himself, thinking you're going to hit him! But I could relate to this situation. I think it's not a best idea when it is someone we know like our families, like our moms and brothers or even friends for example who will teach us to drive. I'm glad your dad is awesome though, but in my opinion, driving, like any other skills that needed to take seriously must be learned from respective authorities like a driving instructor who are calm, adept and professional (no shrieking or laughing at your maneuvering).Mia