Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I don't really have the energy to post right now. I feel, to be honest, like a jellyfish. My knees are jelly. My hands are jelly. I'm amazed I'm not spattered on the floor right now.

Why, you ask?

I just drove a car. In traffic. In the notoriously bad traffic of the neighborhood where I live.

The car was a stick.

I have not driven a car regularly since 1992, and I have not driven one at all since 1999. I dislike driving intensely, and have such strong driving anxiety that even at my peak of driving comfort (relatively speaking) I could not enjoy being anywhere I had driven, because all I could think about was the drive home. Add my dislike of driving to a fondness for walking, a generally urban lifestyle, and a generally tight budget, and you have the car-free lifestyle of which you have heard tell.


Barak is headed, IY"H, into preschool this fall. His third birthday is this weekend. I think he is past the basement playgroup stage, and I am not that comfortable with the basement playgroup concept in general. The available playgroups are not my thing--close, convenient, and affordable, but waaay too hefker for my liking. There is, however, a good Jewish preschool in town. It is well and professionally run, and though expensive, it could be managed.


It's a little under a mile away. That's not a bad walk in general, but four times a day, every day, with one or two kids (and who knows, maybe even a third by the end of the next school year, by which time Barak will be four and a bit) it is clearly Too Much. I could take him on the bus, but that's not a big improvement. I could pay someone else to take him. Or I could learn to drive. Again.

A friend of mine had offered, a few months ago, to give me some driving practice on her car, which is a stick. On Sunday, I took her up on it, and we spent a couple of hours driving around a parking lot. It was fine. I was fine. She was very impressed with my ability to start the car in first and second, the infrequency with which I stalled out, and my general comfort with the concept of a clutch. "You've got really good hand-leg coordination!" she said. "You've really never tried a stick before?" I assured her I had not. She pondered. "I know!" she said. "I bet it's the loom!" And I bet she's right. That or spinning--what spinner does not remember the difficulty, the first time you try out a wheel, of preventing the wheel from spinning backward?

Anyway. Be all that as it may, the parking lot part was fine. So tonight, we went ou driving. In traffic.

It was fine, in that I met my primary goal of killing no one, my secondary goal of inflicting no damage to man, beast, or property, and my tertiary goal of avoiding being the object of road rage. However, the heart-pounding moments, the gutwrenching fear, the stallouts at red lights--verily they were there, and in spades.

It's not the machine I don't like. It's the people in the other machines, and their unpredictability, and the people on sidewalks and strolling obliviously across streets, and the potential, unknown in my ordinary existence, of bumping someone off without actually meaning to.


There's other news, I'm sure, but I'm a little too jellylegged to think of it right now.


Cecilia said...

I have taught 2 people to drive stick. 2 of the scariest experiences in my life. They were fine. I, on the other hand...
I'm sure you'll get the hang on this. I never thought I'd ever drive in LA and I managed.

AidelMaidel said...

Yasher Koach! But why aren't you driving an automatic if you hate driving so much?

Miriam said...

Ugh! I made the mistake of buying a car that was a stick once (it was cheaper, but I should have "just said no."). In Ithaca, NY. Which is, as you probably know, not flat. The high-powered car saleswoman claimed she would "teach me to drive it" and when I did really well in the parking lot, she convinced me that I would be fine. I went to pick it up by myself, stalled it at every traffic light, made it to my insurance agent, and absolutely refused to drive it up the hill.

The short version is I eventually gave up on learning to really drive it and umm, kind of abandoned it, it got impounded, I lost my license for a while on account of not turning in the plates (I was out of state by then, and relying on friends to do that for me, but, well, they didn't) and eventually paid it off and started over.

At any rate, don't buy a stick until you can drive it without shaking or stalling. Get good first, or find a good used automatic.

uberimma said...

I have zero intention of buying a stick. I only drove it because the friend who offered to let me practice driving has one.

And fortunately, our immediate neighborhood has very few hills. Although one of them was under me at a stop sign yesterday...

LeahChaya said...

Ugh! I made the mistake of buying a car that was a stick once (it was cheaper, but I should have "just said no."). In Ithaca, NY. Which is, as you probably know, not flat.

A friend taught me (OK, tried) to drive stick in Binghamton. With hills and a traffic circle to contend with. She did compliment me on doing a better job than her younger sister (about my age), but after two lessons, I quit - I didn't *really* need to learn to drive stick, as neither of parents ever quite needed to learn. (And my dad is only 3 years younger than my MIL, who said stick was all there was when she learned. Go figure.)

jasmin said...

I learned to drive a stick shift in LA. Mostly while commuting from West LA, whose traffic Cecilia can attest to all too well, to Long Beach once a month. I was terrified at the thought of stalling out on the freeway, and getting plowed at high speed in my little aluminum Geo Metro, so at first I took Highway 1, PCH, all the way: almost 2 hours of stop and go and traffic lights and stop signs.

After 3 or 4 months I realized that (a) I'd got the hang of not stalling out pretty well, and (b) I'd be stopping -- and therefore stalling -- far less frequently on the freeway.

And that, children, is how I learned to drive both with a stick and on the freeway. (Yeeeeay! Happy ending.)