Family Legend.

11 Feb

This morning I received a week’s worth of prompts from those nice folks at Plinky, and unlike previous efforts, this week there are three or four topics that I can really get behind. The top of the list, though, actually made me laugh out loud:

Describe the first time you drove a vehicle.

And right now, my Mum is also laughing out loud and calling my Dad to come and read this post.

*     *     *

Unlike most of my peers, I didn’t get my learner’s permit the minute I turned sixteen. I was half-past seventeen before I bowed to the inevitable and made my way to the RTA for that particular rite of passage. I passed the written test without any great drama, and came home armed with my little piece of paper (as it was in those days before the advent of the plastic card with its ugly mug shot), and immediately started hassling my parents to teach me to drive.

Now, I had no idea what I was doing behind the wheel. Unlike my brothers, who spent most of their time in the back seat watching Mum or Dad driving and mimicking their every move, I was far more interested in the scenery flashing past the windows. So the following Saturday afternoon, when Dad finally agreed to let me move his car out of the garage, I needed some fairly detailed instructions.

Pic borrowed from Wikipedia

Picture me sitting behind the wheel of my Dad’s work van, a 1980-ish model Suzuki Carry, pale blue in colour, 800 cc of raw grunt under the bonnet (well, actually, under the front seat). My mission? To drive the car forwards out of the garage, and turn right into the driveway (the garage was at right angles to the driveway, for some arcane reason known only to my Dad, who decided that that was the way it should go). Dad is in the passenger seat, taking me over what everything does, and finally tells me to put the car in neutral.

“It is in neutral,” I reply, wiggling the gear stick. “See? It wobbles.”

“No, it’s in gear. When you park a car, you leave it in gear so it can’t roll away,” Dad explains. “Put it in neutral. Okay, now put your feet on the clutch and the brake and start the car. No, you can let go of the key once it starts screeching like that. Right. Put it in first. Take your foot off the brake. Now, slowly ease your foot off the clutch at the same time as you gently press the accelerator.”

I comply, inching the pedals in the proper directions.

“You can maybe do it a little quicker than that,” says Dad. 

Famous. Last. Words.

I dump the clutch and stomp on the accelerator, tyres screech as I lay rubber on the concrete floor and we are airborne coming out of the garage. I jump on the brakes, stopping mere centimeters from the side fence, on the other side of which the little old lady next door, who had been peacefully weeding her veggie patch, is now scuttling backwards away from us, shouting what I can only assume are imprecations. I am very glad I don’t speak Mandarin.

Dad pries his fingernails out of the dashboard and with remarkable aplomb, reaches across and turns the engine off, puts the keys in his pocket and gets out of the car.

It was more than 20 years before he got back in a car with me behind the wheel.

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8 Responses to “Family Legend.”

  1. RoseRed February 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    OMG hilarious!!
    But really, he should have known better! My mum used to drive the car (also a manual) to a dirt lane near our house and then she’d let me in the driver’s seat. And I had to start and stop, start and stop, all the way up the lane, until I could do it without bunny hopping. Then, and only then, could I actually, you know, drive it, and turn corners etc.

  2. 2paw February 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Oh no, that is so funny!!! I can top 17 1/2 though. I had my car, Hillman Minx (1961 model, station waggon, three gears on the column red leather bench seats, pale aqua and white) sitting outside our house for TWO years until I was 19 and a bit. I had o have my licence because I had Country Teaching Prac. My dad was very kind and patient. Once I stopped half way up a big hill, couldn’t change down gears, so I put on the handbrake, and we held up the traffic while we got out of the car and changed seats and he drove up the hill!
    Good topic!!!

    • kissmyfrog February 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      Ah, I said I got my learner’s permit at 17 1/2. What I failed to mention was that I had a second lesson that was almost as good as the first, decided that walking was REALLY good exercise, and didn’t actually get my licence until I was 29 and pregnant with Boyo.

  3. amy @ kids in the studio February 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    I learned to drive on an automatic. Our dad taught as all, as my mother wanted nothing to do with it. He wasn’t what I’d call a model of patience, that’s for sure. I really, really wanted a standard, though, and my husband (boyfriend at the time) is the one who taught me how to drive one, on his own car. He is an absolutely stunning example of patience personified. And I do remember one instance of freezing while stopped on a hill at a stop sign. He was princely. I can just imagine what my father’s response to that would have been…

    • kissmyfrog February 12, 2011 at 6:16 am #

      When I did eventually learn, it was in an automatic, and from a professional instructor. TS insisted on that, “because I want to stay married” – he said he knew too many couples who had broken up when one tried to teach the other to drive.

      I still don’t drive manual – it’s one of those things I always mean to do but just never get around to it.

  4. Kate February 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Chortle! I learned to drive twice – once when I was sixteen, on an old Magna that didn’t have power steering so was horrendously slow and heavy to turn, and then again when I came back from Japan. My Mum used to take me out to the airport at 5:30 in the morning so I could drive around the carpark, learning how to use the clutch properly, and how to park, and then I’d drive home again along the still empty road. To learn angle parking we went to the Library, hill-starts we did in our own street, but I can’t remember where she took me to learn parallel parking.
    The scariest part of learning to drive was when I was a fairly competent L-plater: I had French tutoring lessons on Friday afternoons in a suburb on the north of Coffs, and Mum had me drive along the highway, through town, in Friday afternoon traffic… for those who know the Pacific Highway, you would understand why that was somewhat nerve-wracking. As you approach the Big Banana there are concrete dividers in the centre of the highway, so I had the unpleasant sensation of trying not to be sucked into the concrete walls beside me as I drove round the bends at 80kms/h, then we had to make the dash across to the road that lead to my tutor’s house…
    I certainly got plenty of practice at highway driving before I had to go solo 🙂

  5. Leonie February 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    At least you didn’t end up on the wrong side of the road facing into oncoming (non-existent, thank God) traffic after flattening a Give Way sign for said oncoming traffic after turning off the 100kph highway onto a side road. Just saying 😛

    • kissmyfrog February 18, 2011 at 6:05 am #

      [abases self] I’m not worthy I’m not worthy I’m not worthy.

      You should totally blog that story!

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