Wednesday, April 14, 2010

THE FRICTION POINT

My first car was a 1970 something White Honda Civic 2-speed with a choke. If I were a guy I would know the exact year of the car. I think it might have been a 1975. Not sure. It took regular gasoline. What's that, you say? That is gasoline with lead in it. Yep. I am THAT old. For those of you checking out my picture and thinking I really should post something a little more recent, depending on what picture you're looking at (I blog in multiple places), that is recent, or yeah, you have a point. Anyway, it was a dandy car, but when I went off to college freshmen weren't allowed to have cars on campus, so my parents sold it. Adios cute little Honda.

TAKE ONE:


When I came home that summer after freshman year, my parents had purchased a new-to-me, used car. A Subaru Station Wagon. Again, I don't know the year. What made this car great was its ability to haul everything I owned to school and back in one trip. Yes, there was a time in my life when all of my worldly possessions fit into a station wagon. Fabulous! The downside of this vehicle was that it was a stick shift. Fortunately, my parents had extended the driveway so that it ran all the way to the back of our house. In essence, it doubled the amount of driveway I had to work with. Egads. I just ended a sentence with the word with. Ooops, I did it again. (graphic credit

For those of you who have ever tried to master the stick shift, you know it is all about finding the friction point between the clutch and the gas pedal. It is a delicate balance. You are letting up on the clutch and pressing down on the gas. It could be considered poetry in motion. It was a summer day, and I was determined, if not skilled, and I had a long driveway. Turns out that like so many things, I could find that balance when the car was in reverse with no problem. So, I backed up like a pro. However, when I sat at the street, facing the house, the car in 1st gear, it was hit and miss. That sounds lyrical. It wasn't. When the clutch and the gas don't come together to make music, the whole car shakes and dies with a death rattle. Over and over and over and over and over again.


My brother, who was four years younger, and didn't have a license, but who ~ no doubt ~ could have gotten in and driven that car with NO PROBLEMS in forward and reverse, sat on the front porch and laughed so hard until he couldn't sit upright. My father came out and got into the car with me, and tried to talk me through it, but got tired of his insides being shaken around, so he could only stand it for so long, and got out. He retreated back to the house. I am sure he had to be wondering if there was a mix-up at the hospital, and he and my mother brought the wrong child home. They both drove stick shift with no problem. My mother was now watching this disaster from the porch with my brother, who was nearly unconscious from the pain of intense joy. (cartoon credit)

Finally, the neighbor from across the street, who had observed this horrific scene in its entirety, offers up, "Maybe she can just ride around town in reverse."

TAKE TWO:


Later that summer, my friend Meg and I are on a road trip to Loudenville. My mother convinced my father to buy a pop-up camper and they spent many a weekend camping in Loudenville. I can't remember how far it was from our house, but I think it was about an hour and a half. I am driving the Subaru Station Wagon and we are singing at the top of our lungs with the windows down. It was awesome. I don't think that car had air conditioning. It might have, but I doubt it. I can tell you that it had a radio and a cassette player and that was it. I know FOR SURE two cassettes that we listened to and we listened to the whole tape (for both) and didn't skip a single song and we knew all of the words. And I can hazard a couple of guesses about other things that we might have listened to just because my mind isn't completely gone. It's mostly gone, but not completely. And you can click
here and here and here and here. And you should, just so you can taste the freedom that was in the air and see what eclectic chicks we were. You don't have to listen to the whole song unless you want to get your groove on. The first two are songs that I know were on tapes that were played. The other two are just very good possibilities.

If you don't know, Ohio is not flat land, and a Subaru doesn't have a whole lot of horsepower. That is not a great combo. If you want to maintain the speed limit at all times it simply isn't possible. You can go down a hill at 55mph, but when on the ascent of the next hill, you will find yourself at 35mph pedal to the medal and fading fast, and you are only halfway there. Not good. It is also buzzkill for your musical high. The solution is 70mph on the downhill so that you can achieve the speed limit of 55mph to make the next hill. I bet you are anticipating a speeding ticket. Nope. However, if you buy your kid a car with no horsepower and you live in a state with hills, this is something to think about. They will rationalize their speeding. I did and I wasn't a problem child. Ask my mom. My brother gave her all of the grief. I saved up mine for now. He is happily married and no trouble. I moved back in as an adult. It's something to consider. Moving on...

Anyway, we had to go through several small towns. It was the typical stuff. You slowed down to nothing and there were a few traffic lights and then you were back in the country. I couldn't tell you which one of these burgs we were in, but we were stopped at a light and we look over and there is a car full of boys ~ cute boys ~ that are our age right beside us. How often does this happen? Never. That's how often. The light changes and I forgot to consider that we were on a slight hill. That meant that the friction point was in a different place than it would be if were on a flat surface. You can see the disaster coming now.... Oh yeah. I stalled that car out. And it shook and it died with the death rattle. And those boys laughed their butts off as they drove away.

Honestly, I don't remember what happened after that. I think that Meg might have said something about how embarrassed she was, but I don't know for certain. I might have said something about them laughing at me and not her because she didn't do anything. I was the idiot who stalled out the car. She may have said nothing and that conversation took place in my head. Truly, I don't know. I don't even remember starting the car, but I know that I did, because I am not still sitting at a light in the middle of nowhere in Ohio. I do know that is the last time I stalled out that car. It NEVER happened again. And, despite being laughed at, that was still an awesome road trip. I wouldn't change a thing.

6 comments:

  1. I've never learnt to drive... Having taken lessons (and a test that ended in disaster - I clipped, and knocked over, a cyclist) I've decided that driving probably isn't for me! lol

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  2. Driving a stick shift is all about balance and feeling the two pedals. I was driving through some pretty small empty spots in Ohio on my way home detouring to see Heather Lynn in Delphos. It is a very flat and empty state.

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  3. I miss driving stick shift - maybe it's as much about finally knowing exactly where the sweet spot was. Or, maybe it was because my husband bought a stick shift thinking I would never be able to drive it. I lurched plenty, Robin. You wrote that beautifully. I was right there with you.

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  4. This post made me laugh, I admit it - just your comic timing about all the cars and how you ended two sentences with the word "with". Hilarious.

    I have yet to learn how to drive stick-shift. I was with a guy who wanted me to learn in case some horrendous emergency happened and I needed to drive his car, but every time I tried learning (and it was a Subaru, and damn sensitive too with the stick) I would choke up and freak out. Not fun.

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    ReplyDelete
  6. You've got a really great blog here!

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    Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete

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