July 31, 2013 by drandmrso
Roughly once every other year I get up my nerve to request another manual transmission driving lesson from Dr. O. It’s a skill I would really love to learn, but something always goes wrong during the lesson that puts me off from really dedicating more time to it.
For example, the last lesson, which took place during the summer of 2011 (I think), culminated in me bawling and yelling at the driver behind me because I was stuck on a hill and couldn’t get started again. Now you see why I take some time between lessons.
But when we had to take Dr. O’s car in to get some maintenance work done, I got to thinking about how inconvenient it would be if we had to take my car in. We’d be left with two people that need to get to work, one manual transmission car, one person that can drive said car, and two completely different schedules. Something in that math doesn’t add up.
So Monday night was a fresh start. A new beginning to my stick shifting endeavors. Dr. O drove us to a mostly empty parking lot and left the engine running while we switched seats. “Do you remember the basics?”
“I think so,” I said. “First I’ll put my foot on the brake, then put my other foot on the clutch. Then I take off the parking brake…” I looked at him and smiled. “Now what?” Thank goodness he’s a very patient teacher.
“You’re going to ease onto the gas and ease up on the clutch. Once you feel the clutch engage you have to go slower on the clutch and give it more gas.” He demonstrated the movements with his hands.
“Ease up on clutch, ease down on gas. Ok.” And oh, miracles be, I got the car moving! It was a little jerky, but I circled the parking lot. Then Dr. O’s phone rang.
“Oh, that’s Dr. C. Can you stop?” I eased onto the brake and the clutch and jerked to a halt. I put on the parking brake and turned off the engine. “Good job! I just have to talk to her about the listings tomorrow.”
The listings are the surgical cases for the next day. Surgeons like to do different types of operations in a certain order, but there was an unusual case for the next day that Dr. O wasn’t sure where to put in the lineup. After he and Dr. C worked out the desired order, Dr. O called the listing staff to make the changes and we were ready to get rolling again.
“Ok. So you’ll have to start it up now,” he said.
“Do I just start it like a normal car?”
“Yep.” Hesitantly, I turned the key. The engine came to life and the car did not explode. A good start.
“Alright, now we’re on a little bit of an incline here, but don’t worry about going backwards. There’s nothing behind us, so just ease onto the gas and up on the clutch like you did last time.” He makes this sound so easy! I let out the parking brake and immediately the car started rolling backwards.
“Aaahh!” I yelped. I couldn’t help it. “I’m going backwards!”
“It’s ok,” Dr. O said, laughing. “Clutch and gas.” I tried to ignore the fact that I was rolling backwards unbidden and promptly killed the engine by letting out the clutch too quickly.
“I do not like this.” I said. “This is stupid.”
Dr. O tried to control his laughter. “Let’s try one more time. I’m going to use the parking brake while you get moving. That’s how you really start on a hill.” I agreed to give it another shot and—somehow—actually got the car moving again! I made a slow circle around the parking lot.
“I’m doing it!” I was practically giddy.
“Go ahead and shift now,” he prompted. I successfully shifted into second. This was going swimmingly! “Nice. Now shift back down.” I tried, and killed the engine. I had another “woe is me” moment, but Dr. O convinced me to try just one more time to get it started. Then we could be done.
With Dr. O manning the parking brake (we were once again starting on a little hill), I eased up on the clutch and down on the gas. And that’s when I saw the smoke. “Oh my gosh! The car’s on fire!” I panicked and killed the engine somewhat intentionally.
“Hmm,” Dr. O intoned. “Yeah.” Now, while it is undoubtedly an important feature of a surgeon to not panic, I was not particularly thrilled with his response to this emergent situation.
“The car is smoking! We’re on fire!” I was yelling and flailing my hands. A much more appropriate response, in my mind, than Dr. O’s calm assessment. He reached over and held my hand.
“It’s not on fire. Relax.” He got out of the car and immediately the smell of burning rubber flooded in. “I’m pretty sure it’s just the clutch.” In my panic I hadn’t noticed that the smoke had stopped shortly after I killed the engine.
“The clutch? Oh my God. Did I break the car?” I asked, calculating car repairs furiously in my mind.
“No, no, no,” Dr. O said reassuringly. “People burn out all the time. It’s fine. Sure smells terrible, though.”
“I would like to be done now please,” I said. I got out of the car and Dr. O got back in the driver’s seat.
“Ooooo,” he said. “Annie I am so sorry. You were trying to start in third! That’s totally my fault.”
“What do you mean?”
He pointed to the stick. “When you tried to down shift you must have accidentally gone into third gear instead. Then we left it there when we tried to start again. I’m sorry.” He started up the car without issue and we got on our way, the smell of smoking car parts still lingering in the air.
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing at least it wasn’t entirely my fault that my biannual lesson had crashed and (literally) burned. Maybe I’ll actually request another lesson before 2015. Maybe.
A couple of shout-outs today:
1. Happy birthday, Dad! I hope your day is filled with black licorice and those caramel thingies from Costco!
2. (Almost) Master J, travel safely! Hydrate and use bug spray and don’t let the monkeys touch you. Trust me.