In which Deb Kristina pops the clutch

Ultimately, my mother couldn’t teach me to drive. I can still hear the “clack” of her ring smacking into the door frame as she grabbed on for dear life through the open window of the family Mazda.

So. It was all up to Dad. When I managed to pass muster on the Mazda, it was time for my own car. I ended up with a 1984 Chevy Cavalier, like this one to the left, only powder blue. And with a standard transmission.

(I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the extra few weeks required to get me road-ready on this car kept me off the open road longer. Now that I’m a parent myself, I tip my hat to you, Mom and Dad. Very cunning strategy.)

Dad wasn’t happy with me simply mastering the low gears and reverse, oh no. He took me to the steepest hill in Kent County, made me stop halfway up, and then start again with no rolling back. He also taught me to pop the clutch to start a car.

It was heinous, but now I’m proud to have “stick shift driving” in my list of talents. It impresses dudes that a chick can drive a stick. It was fun for me to teach my then-boyfriend (now husband) to drive my car. (Though, it took him all of about 15 minutes to master it, which put my slow learning curve to shame).

Once, I was pulling out of a drive-through with Bruce and he handed me my drink just as I was turning and shifting at the same time. Somehow I accepted the drink, turned, shifted, and didn’t miss a beat. He was amazed. Multi-tasking!

Driving a stick is really driving isn’t it? Alas, now I’m in sedan-and-minivan land. Still, I look forward to a time when I can drive again with both feet, and both hands.

Four on the floor, baby.


(So…can you drive a stick?)

17 Replies to “In which Deb Kristina pops the clutch”

  1. My hat’s off to you Kris! St. John has the most adorable blue VW Bug that gets 40 miles to the gallon AND runs on biodiesel and I don’t drive it because it’s a stick shift. Oh, he’s taught me and taught me and I even drove to Canada and back with a friend in her standard (no problem) and in Uganda we had a jeepy thing (standard of course) and I had no problem hauling that thing around (of course, there was no traffic, no steep hills and no pesky stop signs). But somehow I just cannot master the shifting on the bug. After driving my friend’s car from Canada, I was all brave and confident about the clutch and shift so I took St. John’s car for a drive, pulled it out into the funky and dangerous U-turn we have to get out onto our (busy) main road at the bottom of our hill . . . and stalled . . . twice! And that was it for me!

  2. Good morning Eve! Sounds like you have some kind of Bug Jinx.

    I was going to add a question to my post about whether YOU (readers) can drive a stick. Think I’ll go do that now.

  3. No, I can’t, but I certainly appreciate people who can stop on a hill without rolling back when they start! It seems like most people in LA like to let their cars wander back a few car lengths before actually going forward again.

  4. My first car was a green Volkswagon that needed a new paint job, new engine and new upholstery. Even after all of that, it still had a hole in the back floor board and a crack the size of the Grand Canyon on the dashboard!

    Of course, it was a stick and I had to learn to drive it. Later it started falling apart little by little and I’d have to call my friends to come push me off as I “popped the clutch.”

    Ahhh, I have so many funny memories of that car. I should write a book!

  5. I can drive a stick–I didn’t have any other option growing up. And the first couple of times I tried to drive an automatic, I expected it to do everything else automatically for me (go into reverse, etc.). Not good. But I adjusted.

  6. I think I still can! I learned on the first car I bought after graduation from college, a purple fiat. Yes, purple. The interior was purple fabric. Yes, purple. It was fast and fun. I loved it. Of course, there weren’t too many grapes-on-wheels in my hometown so when I’d stall out in an intersection everyone knew it was me. I worked at an advertising agency at the time and people who saw me just chalked it up to creative expressionism.

    The car was a piece of junk but it was a blast while it lasted.

  7. What fun conversation! Well Katie, if you’re ever behind me when I’m driving a stick shift, you’ll have my dad to thank because I won’t roll into your bumper. (I did used to do it on purpose to tailgaters, though.)

    Marsha, isn’t that funny how much affection we have for those crappy old cars?

    Meredith, that’s hilarious you thought it would go “automatically” in reverse. Well…that’s what it means, right? Too funny.

    Tiffany, I bow down to you. You win! (I’m still crap at parallel parking. Also, at spelling parallel.)

    Danielle, what were you trying to express by stalling out your grape-mobile? Heck, if it was a Fiat I don’t care what color it was. It was coooool.

  8. I still do drive a stick. A 2000 Honda CRV. I like to shift gears, but now that I have a three-year old, I can see the beauty of having an extra hand while driving.

    My mom taught me to drive stick by taking me onto a busy road, speed limit 55 mph, after a twenty-minute crash course in changing gears. I think she had a death wish. Forgetting which was the brake and which was the clutch and beginning to hyperventilate, I found a place to pull off the road. Still, I learned, and I learned quickly. A former smoker, I could pack my cigarettes on the steering wheel, remove the cellophane, light up, and manage a soda, simultaneously. Wow! Now I manage my son’s snacks and friends. I guess it’s healthier… 🙂 Great topic!

  9. Hi ladies,
    You all put me to shame, I am an old “stick in the mud”. Tried to learn at age 18…my dad tried to teach me…for about 10 minutes, couldn’t get it, didn’t get it, gave it up…after my father reverted to his native language (whatever it was) in frustration.

    Eighteen years later, give or take, I took 3 lessions on regular car “automatic”…passed the test the first time, and my first drive was across the VZ bridge with kids in the back. So what is the big deal about a “stick shift”?

  10. YES!

    And it is so funny that you mention this skill – it is one of my secret vain prides . . . . .

    It enables me to shout “if I were there I would totally rock at this!” at the TV when the Amazing Race is on and yet ANOTHER team cannot drive stick ..

  11. Michele, aren’t moms the master of multi-tasking? Guess your smoking habit, while unhealthy, was good practice….

    Becki, sounds like you totally get my pride in this. It’s becoming a rare skill, too.

    Eve’s Mom, stick shift driving is FUN. Let’s us feel a little bit NASCAR, I think. Sure, the speed limit might be 55, but a stick shift gets you there faster.

  12. I don’t understand NASCAR either, but then I don’t understand racing or many other wildly admired sports. I understand figure skating…ah that is awesome.

  13. I don’t remember smacking the side of the door on the Mazda but I’m sure you are right. It was much easier on my nerves to allow your dad the “fun” of teaching you to drive. I remember when you test drove your first car. The salesmen took us to a church parking lot to let you “try” driving the stick shift. I watched from the side lines wondering what in the world I was thinking. My brother taught me to drive a stick shift on gravel roads and I always thought it was fun.

  14. Hi Mom! I’d forgotten about the salesman! The crazy thing was that I was somehow really good at driving that car in the church parking lot but when we got it home I was a mess again. Maybe I had enough incentive during the test drive because if it had been a disaster we never would have bought it (and the Cavalier was way cuter than the Dodge Diplomat.)

    Larramie, woo hoo! I don’t like yellow cars as a rule but for a ‘Vette convertible I suppose I could make an exception.

    Annie, you never know, there’s still time! Though, it seems they don’t make standard transmission much anymore. Gosh, I’m a relic.

    Eve’s Mom, I like a good triple axle (axel?) myself.

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