Tuesday, January 24, 2012
When did you drive your first standard?
It's been so long ago that I had to look up the year and model of the car we had back then but then my memory bank started slowly powering up. The year was 1963 and our family car was a 1950 hydraulic shift Dodge. As you can see by the picture, it wasn't exactly a car to woo the girls.Now, picture that car with rusted paint, a few dents and lots of miles. That old car let out so much exhaust fumes that my friends used to call it "The bomb." They forgot about that when they used come over begging me to ask my stepfather if I could use the bomb to go out on the town because their fathers would let them use their family car.
I don't really remember when I got my license but I do remember using my future brother in-in-law's 1962 Chevrolet Impala to take my date to the junior/ senior prom. There was no way that I was going to take the Bomb. I remember my brother in laws’ car was a standard, so the 30 minutes or so of instructions I got from him was enough for me to take it to Victoria High School. I met my date, who had come in from Inez with friends, at the gym but I was supposed to take her home. I've kept trying to get one of my friends to double date with us but they had their own plans. I wanted one of them the drive. All during the prom, I kept wondering how I was going to take her home safely but I damn sure was not going to tell her I didn't know how to drive a standard. After the dance we found the car and she kept telling me how beautiful it was and I did admit it wasn't mine. We didn't get the very far before she asked to pull over and let her drive because as a country girl, she learned how to drive a standard pickup as soon as she could see over the windshield. On the way to her house, she told me all about her driving tractors and working on old cars. I was glad she drove because I remember Inez being pitch dark and her long driveway was not exactly made of smooth concrete. Compound all that with four or five dogs barking, I imagine this young 17 year old would have run into a tree. I'll skip the other details but the next day my brother- in -law asked me " How in the hell did you get the car so muddy and what's with all the grass?" My sister came over and asked him why he was hollering at me and I used that opportunity to slip away.
I didn't really learn how to drive a standard ,or as we like to call it "stick shift"until I went into the service. It was on the day we had jeep driving lessons. We were out pretty close to White Sands, New Mexico when my Sergeant told me to slip over into the driver's seat and to assume the driver’s position. We were surrounded by sand and I remember my sergeants words" pull over into the sand," I did and then I heard those words" Don't stop, don't stop, don't turn sharply put your foot on the clutch and put it 4 wheel drive." As I write this, I still can hear his words" don't you embarrass me; you better not get stuck." It's strange, I can't remember if I embarrassed him but all I can remember is the anxiety of my first real lesson in driving a standard vehicle.