Around my 16th birthday, my father walked in with his car keys dangling from a finger. "Let's go learn how to drive a stick shift," he announced. Although not well versed with shifting gears, I didn't tell him that I'd already had a couple of lessons by my older brother and his Rabbit and I'd driven my sister's orange Ford Fiesta a couple of times home from church. Clearly, I was going to out-perform on my "first" lesson.
We drove around the countryside; a community with an occasional stop sign and very little traffic. I popped the clutch too quickly and killed the engine, but overall I was doing a respectable job.
Not far from our home was a gulley. Not the little dip in the road but a 16 degree angled hill going down then up. It's a nice little hamlet for some local deer, raccoon, fox and a little stream. It was kind of like a roller coaster for the poor. If you opened your windows, closed your eyes, put your hands up the air, there was a very small similarity. This is where my dad directed me to drive. Down into the gulley which was a small rush of adrenaline then up to the other side. Halfway up he told me to stop. Then I got to practice popping the clutch and adding enough gas to start on a steep hill. I'm pretty sure I was stuck there for two days. Eventually we coasted backward to the bottom of the gulley so I could get the car going again.
And that is how I learned how to drive stick shift.
Ironically, we now live directly above one side of that same gulley. In fact, in order to reach our church on Sunday we have to through that gulley. Stopping on one side of the hill to teach my 16 year old how to start the car is no longer an option since the area has been built up so much since then. Still, last Sunday I found myself in the passenger seat in the car with the stick shift while my daughter drove us to church. Down the hill we went then up again quickly losing momentum. "You might want to add gas or you'll be really embarrassed soon," I told her. She did and we turned into the parking lot of the church.
Once in the parking lot, a couple of cars pulled in behind us. There was a great parking spot she missed which flustered her. She killed the car. She started it back up and bucked it. It died again. Repeat 6 times. On the 7th try I was no longer able to give direction. I was laughing too hard and covering my face. She finally pulled into a parking spot and I jumped out and nearly sprinted to the church doors.
"I was having a hard time because there were cars behind me," she panted as she tried to keep up.
"Of course," I replied. "But could you walk behind me about ten paces and pretend like we don't know each other? You may not have your dignity intact but I want to pretend like I have mine."
Instead she linked her arm with mine and we walked into the church together.