Experiences with the Infernal Combustion Engine
On Thursday August 6, 2009, an historic event occurred: I passed my driving test. After many, many practice driving trips, three previous failed attempts at taking the test and several quite eloquent speeches on the superiority of the horse and buggy to the Infernal–I beg your pardon, Internal Combustion Engine, I finally am a licensed driver. I have a lovely driver’s license complete with a bad picture of me looking very happy and a red strip on the top instead of the blue one indicating a learner’s permit. It’s pretty snazzy.
Not only can I now drive myself to work, I can also fondly reminisce about the Days of Yore when I first learned to drive. For my first driving lesson ever, I was expected to drive my Dad’s work van. The inside of this van was held together by duct tape, and the outside was painted powder blue with bright orange and deep blue stripes. It was so ugly that it was almost cute. We affectionately named it “The Mystery Machine.”
I’m not sure exactly why my dad got me to drive his car, since even with the seat moved as far forward as it could go I could only just barely reach the gas and brake pedals and because it had a nasty habit of randomly cutting off, say, in the middle of an intersection. It cut off on me while I was in the middle of a turn, nearly giving me a heart attack. Thankfully, there’s not much traffic to speak of in Early Branch. But it was the last time I drove Dad’s van.
All subsequent driving lessons took place with my mom in her van. It wasn’t much better than the Mystery Machine: it was a big white conversion van known as both The Great White Whale and Moby Dick. (Needless to mention, I am *very* grateful for Scarlett, the little red Subaru that I’m currently driving.)
Then there’s the first (and last) time I drove a stick shift. I was in Brevard visiting my grandparents the summer I first got my permit when someone told my cousin Johnny he needed to move his car. Johnny looked over at me and said, “Hey Nel, want to move my car?” I didn’t. But Johnny wouldn’t take no for answer.
Moving the car turned into driving the car all over Brevard. This was somewhat problematic for a variety of reasons:
- I didn’t have my permit with me.
- Even if I had had my permit, permits are not valid out of state.
- Even if I had had my permit with me and I were driving in state, my cousin Johnny was not yet 21.
- Even if I had had my permit and I were driving in state and Johnny had been 21, I had never driven a stick shift before and I was in the mountains.
This remains the Most Illegal Thing I have Ever Done, though it wasn’t until afterwards that the full illegality of it hit me. Johnny and I both survived the experience, but I am not so sure about his clutch.