Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Behind the Wheel

On a hot summer day, I took my life and placed it into the hands of my good friend, the fabulous "Queen of the Universe" (self-proclaimed), Ms. DM. Fate was on my side that day and I survived to tell the tale.

It was August 11, 2003. My schedule being what it is today, I had Monday off work and DM was currently on a schedule where Mondays were good for her too. She had her learner's permit in her purse and I had a clutch screaming to be worked. It was the day to teach DM how to drive a stick-shift vehicle.

Prior to her day behind the wheel of Foxy, DM had other driving adventures. None of those were with a manual transmission and it was my goal to have her become less afraid of the road. (For other tales of DM driving, please check out her posts. "Why I Don't Drive" and "Driving with Miss Dana".) In my past, I've shown a few different people how to drive with a clutch, but this was truly the most fun. What was the main difference between the drivers? Besides the fact DM is one of the best friends anyone could ever wish for, she also had very little behind the wheel experience prior to driving the manual transmission.

We started off simple. It was around the block. Then it was around the block again. At first, DM's comments kept being, "Too fast! Too fast!" each time she reached 10 miles an hour. Then she realized that to keep the car running and to be able to switch gears, she would need to give Foxy a little more juice.

The journey changed from simple city blocks to driving from Shoreview, MN to Woodbury, MN without the use of a freeway. I got to sit in the passenger seat of my car, giving words of encouragement to DM, and enjoy the scenery.

During the trip, DM managed to not turn and follow a detour. There we were, coasting along a gravel ridden road where DM finally turned onto a dead-end street. She tried to turn the vehicle around in the cul-de-sac at the end. The key word in that sentence is tried. The man cleaning up his yard watched with a puzzled expression as the reverse lights kept coming on and off of Foxy. He watched with curiosity as the car kept killing and jerking back and forth. We finally gave up on DM's attempts to position the car in the right direction and I hopped behind the wheel for a moment. I righted the car and we switched places again. That was the last switch until we reached our destination.

Once DM was back to the right road, she became a speed demon. I had to point out (more than once I might add) that the speed limit was 40 miles an hour, not 60. Her reply, "I know, but it's so much fun!" She was grinning from ear to ear.

Road Ahead

With one destination in mind (her sister's work), DM kept going. The excitement built and the laughter ensued.

DM driving

As DM spent time behind the wheel of Foxy, she grew aggressive in her driving tactics. It was time to be vocal in her emotions and frustrations. She would say to Foxy, "Come on, come on, you can do it. Don't kill on me. That's it. That's my girl. We're going to fourth, you feel that, you like that. We're doing good. We're doing just fine baby. Ahhh!"

Besides laughing at the fact DM was talking dirty to my car, I had to smile when the driver of a car in front of us decided to turn. DM shrieked, "Ahhh!" and then darted into the next lane instead of braking. That probably would not have scored many points on her driving exam, if she would ever take it.

I was able to enjoy the ride and had a front row seat for the adventure in DM driving. At least I didn't request vodka after the experience (like my mom's first two times of my driving).


A yellow light looms in the distance.

DM behind the wheel

DM: Oh! What do I do?
B: Stop.
DM: Alright, light, light, feather, feather.
She stops fine at the light. It turns green.
The car behind us starts honking after she kills the engine two times.
The light turns red again.
DM: The light is red again.
B: That's okay. We can wait.
Green light.
DM: Okay, I can do this. Come one.
We jerk forward about an inch. She turns the key again to start the engine back up.
DM: Don't do this to me! Okay, I know I'm doing it to you, but work with me.
Dead car.
DM: What am I doing wrong?
B: Well, the light is red again. You're letting up on the clutch too much. It should be a balance.
DM: Okay, I can do this.
B: Give it hell.
The light turns green and DM does manage to get through it this time.

We travel a few more miles and DM finds the turn off to her sister's work. The light turns yellow, but DM does not want the same experience as the previous red light. She guns the engine and takes the left-hand turn going about 40 miles an hour.

I'm pretty sure I felt the tires on my side lose contact with the ground. Somehow, I don't know how, DM manages to get through the intersection without causing an accident or flipping the car over. We make it to her sister's work and she pulls into a parking spot. There were closer spots to the door, but she parked as far away from all the other cars as she possibly could.

DM victory

When we got out, DM did a little victory dance! She drove!


This is Foxy and DM's parking job. Notice the yellow lines? She's almost inside them!

DM resting

It was good to relax afterwards and DM had an adventure. I enjoyed the day immensely and still get a smile when I watch the video clips from that afternoon. She needs to renew her permit and I want to take her out in my new car. Practice makes perfect, she just needs to spend a little more time practicing!