Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Philosophical Rowing...

Yesterday's Doctor Appointment went a lot easier than I'd expected; way less browbeating, anyway. That appointment is always a little rough, but I can almost overlook the, ahem, violation if I don't have to get bitched at afterward.

After dinner, Clay and I swapped cars. He's got "The Short Bus" for now, so we can get the Red SHO up on the lift and see what's goin' on with the front end. There's just somethin' about the Manual-Transmission SHO... I don't think there's anything I'd ever trade my Automatic for, but if I ever run onto another one with a Manual in it, I'll probably buy it just to have another one around. I'm not real crazy about havin' to move the seat up closer to the airbag so I can get the clutch all the way down, but it's worth puttin' up with 'cause it's just so much fun to drive -- up through the gears with lots of tight-windin' pull, and then back down with it buzzin' the exhaust just like that sky-blue Mustang that My Mom had when I was five or six...

I'd say it's got a little somethin' goin' on, but it still wasn't too bad on the way home. I took it easy up through the neighborhood streets and I couldn't hear anything; so I went ahead and laced into it once I made it to the highway on-ramp. Clay thinks I'm crazy, but I didn't feel anything that made me worry, so I opened it on up once I made it to US75; man, ya gotta love anything that'll pull like that. It was smooth and easy right on up to 80 or so; it certainly didn't shake-rattle-protest like the Windstar did on the turnpike goin' to Springfield, that's for sure.

Drivin' home last night, I got to thinkin' about bein' 16 and runnin' around in that Ranger with the five-speed, and how I always got a kick out of how many of my friends hadn't ever seen anything like that. After having a relatively pleasant Doctor Visit yesterday afternoon, I was far, far away from thinking of myself as feelin' old, but rowin' gears made me feel young; and rowin' gears in somethin' with some power always makes me smile.

I also got to thinkin' about Clay's niece gettin' that little white Mercury that I found on Cr@igsList, and how I said that surely amongst the bunch of us, some of us could help her learn to drive it. Would I be a good teacher? I like to think I'm pretty good at it, but do I have what it takes to teach someone else how? I know what I'm doing, I love the feel of it all, but would I be able to put that into words well enough to help a new learner figure it out like my folks helped me figure it out??

I really don't remember My Dad ever actually yelling at me in the car; I can only think of three times he really chewed my ass, and I probably needed it. Once for takin' the Toyota truck around a left turn a little too hard (almost hung the stop sign), once for bouncin' Mom's Explorer over the curb at Braum's in Owasso, and once for tryin' to beat the train on 86th Street in the Samurai... Don't worry, don't yell, it wasn't moving, it was just parked where it kept the lights flashing. My Mom covered the basics via discussion and observation in her Accord or whatever myriad of lot cars and rebuilders she happened to pick me up at school in; and she also insisted that learning with the manual transmission was the only option. My Dad handled the hands-on part, including tearing the back yard to rutty pieces in that brown Toyota truck. My Mom was rarely willing to ride with me at all, and somewhere between hangin' the Ranger out sideways in the sand at 116th & Sheridan and crashing the F-150 when I was nineteen, Mom wouldn't ride with me at all for several years. Dad was always cool though, he'd let me drive just about anything we went somewhere in, from the '57 T-bird to the GMC with the Pontoon Boat on the trailer, to the wrecker with a couple cars on it.

Best I can figure, trust is the most important factor in it all. My finest memories are of when Dad would pull over on 96th Street as soon as we'd crossed the highway and let me drive to the house from there; it started when I was 12 or 13, and he stopped there just about every time 'til I had my permit. He trusted me with just about everything he ever drove home; lot cars, rebuilders, cars, trucks, vans, whatever, he trusted me. The afternoon that my middle brother nodded off in the passenger seat of the Ranger comin' home from Fairfax was also a memorable moment of trust, especially considering I hadn't really expected him to even let me drive.

My most amazing moment of trust came not from family, but from near stranger, a guy I'd only seen three or four times -- I knew his name, but that's about it. In a true coming-of-age moment in '98 or so, a wrecker salesman pitched me the keys to a brand-ass-new fire-engine red Ford F-550 crew-cab with a 24-foot rollback bed -- just smiled and tossed 'em to me like he wasn't worried at all. It was the biggest thing I'd had my hands on at the time, and also the first six-speed I'd had the chance to drive. As I made a lap around Sperry in it, I couldn't help but think I had officially reached the age where I was not just some kid anymore...

"Oh God, I'm The Grown-Up Here now..."

I'm still not sure if I'd have what it takes (in English, anyway) to teach a first-timer the magic of the manual transmission. I guess I'd need something huge like that F-550, so if we crashed, we'd be nice & safe. ;)

More later... _\,,/

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