Driving Miss Date-sy

Those smiles are SO fake...

The appearance of Reese’s Pieces Cereal Puffs could mean only one thing: my brother was coming to visit, my dad had gone grocery shopping and my weekend was therefore ruined.

It’s not that I don’t like my brother—I like him quite a lot actually, especially now that we’re both old enough to drink and subsequently divulge the secrets of our love lives.  It’s the mandatory laps through the Ikea parking lot his visits have come to require that I don’t like.

No, my brother’s not particularly obsessed with cheap furniture, not any more than any other 23 year old with an apartment in the suburbs and an eye to buying his first house soon at least.  We go to Ikea because the back lot is amongst the emptiest in South Philadelphia and therefore the least likely place for me take down a pedestrian, a runaway shopping cart or a tree while attempting to shift my dad’s car into second gear.

So yes, I’m still trying to learn to drive stick.

About five minutes into yesterday’s lesson, having stalled the car approximately thirteen times, I found myself banging my head against the steering wheel and shouting, “I hate this car!  I hate this f*cking car!  I hope it blows up!”

(Because if it blew up, my ability to drive it wouldn’t really matter anymore, would it?  Hah!  Take that!)

“That’s a stupid thing to wish for while we’re both sitting inside of the car,” my brother pointed out.

He was right, of course, but given my inability to shift my dad’s car into first gear (let alone second), the thought of becoming a suicide bomber was mighty tempting.  (At least I wouldn’t have to waste another perfectly good Saturday afternoon driving around the Ikea parking lot.)

“Take a deep breath” my brother urged.

I took a swig from my coffee mug instead.

“Now,” he instructed, “this time you’re going to shift into second gear.”

“No way!”

“You’ll be fine.”


(Having spent the past eight months learning from my students, I can be a pretty stubborn five year-old at times.  This was one of those times.)

“Come on.  Guys will think you’re hot if you can drive stick.”



In that case…

I decided to give it a try.

“Start it in first,” my brother instructed.  “There you go.  Now give it some gas, give it some gas… Now shift, Kat, shift!”

I shifted.  Successfully.  And for three brilliant seconds, until I reached the end of the parking and had to turn around, I was Mario-freaking-Andretti, cruising along at an extraordinary rate of eight miles per hour.

So watch out world.

Seriously, watch out because I made it all the way from the Ikea parking to the Dollar Tree parking lot today so it’s only a matter of time (six or seven years, I should think) before I take to the open road.

8 Responses to “Driving Miss Date-sy”

  1. Your Landlord

    If you do become a full time expat, you will need to drive stick, as most of their cars are manual transmission, so perhaps another carrot to dangle while you practice? What if you and some hot guy are hiking, he sprains his ankle and you have to drive him to the hospital? I could go on… 😉

    Once you learn, you will laugh at how anxious you are now. I promise!

  2. wordofsoia

    Your Brother really thinks women are hot if they drive a stick? I really dont get how being able to do that gives you an attractions point boost :s.
    Funny though, this guy I met on the weekend said he found it odd that I drove a manual and that not many girls he knew did. I told him I was “Old School” and when I learnt to drive my Father drummed it into my head that if you could drive a manual you could drive anything .

    PS – Its a piece of cake, just dont think too much about it or if you do remember it means you will then be able to drive anything 😛

  3. Canti

    I said it last time you talked about it and I’ll say it again … “find the friction point” and you’ll be golden … seriously! It’s all about feeling what the car’s doing and recognizing the sounds of when you need to shift … it takes practice.

    Maybe instead of occasional practice, maybe that should be the only way you travel for a few weeks. Necessity is a great teacher.

  4. Carolan

    People have probably said this before and maybe you’re trying it already (and perhaps it’s what Canti calls the friction point above) but here we go anyway. My driving instructor got me to sit there for ages just with my foot on the clutch (not touching the accelerator) and the gear in first, lifting it gradually until I found the bite and the car started to move forward, then stopping again. I did it over and over and over and suddenly it started to work, I got where the bit point was and could feel how to change gears. I too had spent rather a long time driving around car parks getting very annoyed until then. Worked for me, anyway.

  5. Your Landlord

    @both Carolan & Canti, you are completely correct, it is all about the feel, and it will become second nature. I, too, had a father that drummed it into my head that learning “stick” would mean I could drive anything–so glad others are echoing our thoughts, especially the fact that it isn’t as hard as she thinks.


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