Learning to Drive

I learned to drive the way most kids of my era did… taking driver’s ed at school, after the regular school day was over. There were usually 30 or so kids taking the class and we were divided up into groups for four and assigned a car. The four of us would take turns driving, which gave us very little practice time. My dad sometimes took me out for practice, I suspect I aged him quite a bit with my driving. Although, not as bad as my sister did, who creamed the back of his Buick when she was backing out the driving and hit the chimney.

I failed my first driving test, because I was so nervous. I was also so mortified that I had failed, that I refused to drive for the next three years. By then I was tired of asking friends for rides, walking or taking the bus, so I borrowed my brother’s car, a real lemon, (it didn’t help that both my brother and sister had their licenses before I did, and they were both younger) and took the test again. Damn if I didn’t fail it a second time!

This time I was pissed, so I waited a week and went to a different testing office and finally, passed the test. Third time’s the charm.

Shortly after, I bought a used 1966 Ford Mustang for $700 cash and I was in heaven.

Not only did I have my own car, but it was a fun car to drive. I bought it in 1970 and had it until 1973. By then it was having some problems and I decided to trade it for a brand new car. Fortunately, I sold the Mustang after I bought my new car, a bright yellow Mazda Rx-3 with rotary engine, then said to be the new thing in modern cars. Because the Mustang was starting drive like a slug, I knew the Mazda was going to be like driving a sports car.


There was only one big problem. The Mazda was a standard transmission as it was cheaper than an automatic, and I didn’t know how to drive a stick. My friend, Mickey, came to my rescue and went with me to pick up the car, which she drove back to my apartment and I drove the Mustang home. I was now the proud owner of two cars.

But I still didn’t know how to drive the new car. So Mickey again came to my rescue and took me and the new Mazda to downtown Seattle. Her reasoning was that if I could shift on the hills of downtown Seattle, I would be able to drive anywhere. Well, learning how to shift while pressing down on the clutch and letting know when to release it was a huge learning curve for me, but eventually I got it. Or so I thought.

The first day I drove the new car to work, I didn’t do nearly as well, and I almost lost my confidence again. I very nearly gave up and turned around and sold the car back to the dealership. But there is small part of me that is incredibly stubborn and I refused to give in. Little by little I got better at shifting and gained more confidence driving a car with a standard transmission. I drove that car for several years until the rotary motor blew up while driving on I5 just as I was coming into downtown Seattle. That was the end of that car.

Years later I bought a Ford Escort five speed station wagon in cherry red. I loved driving that car and did until I was in a near fatal car accident in 1987. I haven’t driven a stick since and I wonder if I would even remember how to shift.

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