(NOTE: Thank you for missing me last week! You were sweet to contact me with your concern. Sorry about that. From now on, I should be able to give a warning before a silence.)
I took driver’s training, but my dad taught me to drive. There are many stories about that, but today we discuss….. The Van.
After he taught me the basics of driving and I proved I could do it, he walked me to The Van. It was a large panel van he used for work. There were no windows along the sides. There were workbenches built on each side on the inside and the tools and necessary items for my electronic engineer father to do his job. There was a metal file on one side that was filled with little gizmos and whatnots, the drawers of which would slide open when you made a left turn, then crash closed when you straightened back out. I’d ridden in it plenty. I thought it was cool.
That day, Dad walked me to the van which was parked in the turn-around in the driveway. As he invited me into the driver’s seat, he uttered the immortal words, “If you can drive this, you can drive anything.” I swallowed and put my hands on the steering wheel.
He’d taught me to drive in a big ol’ family sedan, automatic, power everything. This van had power nothing and was a three-gear shift on the column. Dad used his hands to explain to me how the gears work, the job of the shift, and drew a diagram on a piece of paper that he taped to the dash showing the placement of the gears on the column. I didn’t get any of it, but eagerly pushed the clutch in and turned the key when he told me to.
Dad made sure I got the van in reverse, then leaned back in the passenger seat and said, “Let the clutch out slowly while pushing in the gas, and back out and down the driveway.”
I lost count of how many attempts it took before the van had even started the turn out of the parking place. Jerk! Blam. Restart. Jerk! Blam. Restart. I’m trying not to give away my occasional teenage penchant for cussing with my dad in the van, but to his credit Dad’s saying very little. I just remember words like “smoothly” and “slowly.” But then I’d threaten us both again with whiplash and deafness from the cacophony of crashing in the back of the van as I jerked my way into the long stretch of the driveway.
Finally, I was out of the turn. I couldn’t see out the back windows, there were no side windows, so as I’m still jerking away, I’m trying to navigate by the side mirrors. I was going VERY slowly, still whipping us about, but beginning to grow in confidence. I pictured chugging past the white picket fence at the end of our yard, turning onto the road, and finally going forward! I noticed Dad leaning around, looking behind us through the windows at the back of the van. I braced myself for the praise.
Dad turned back around and settled into the seat. THEN he calmly said, “You’re going to hit the fence.”
It took a moment to register. When it did, I slammed my foot down on the brake, lifting up off the clutch anyway which killed the van. I stuck my head out the window and looked. I was perhaps two feet from the fence, the back wheels having gone up over the curb and onto the lawn without me even realizing it.
Did I learn to drive that van? Yup. Took it for pleasure rides which involved occasionally stopping, lifting the hood and using a big screwdriver to pop over some little gear thingy that would get stuck. Made me look all tough and mechanical to any teenage boys going by. I’m sure fathers said, “Now THERE’S the girl for MY boy!”
And judging from the plethora of vehicles I’ve driven since then, Dad was right. I can drive anything. And sometimes I even miss that van….