There I am, in the middle of a half-deserted Kmart parking lot, knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel and face flushed with effort - of learning to drive a manual transmission.
And not just any manual transmission - but a corvette one. Harry's toy. His prize. His joy. His first love (I come in at a close second, I'm sure.)
"Okay. Put your foot on the clutch and the other one on the brake. Good. Now ease off the clutch. See? You're kinda coasting!" He patted my shaky knee with his sweaty palm. He was nervous. I don't blame him.
"Okay. Now - push the clutch in. All the way. Okay- now put it in first. Slowly let off the clutch while you're giving it some gas." He keeps talking slower and slower like I'm an infant or - he's trying to maintain his sanity while I'm grinding every gear that's not "first."
"There ya go!" he says as I jerk and sputter towards Kmart.
"Okay - now - STOP!" he tests me.
I slowly and carefully apply the brake and then push in the clutch. I turn and grin at him.
"Yeah - there was a bit of a delayed reaction on that one - but - ya know - I'm sure you would've stopped quicker if there was a car barreling at us or something!" He doesn't sound convinced.
"Drive around to the back of Kmart - I want to see if you can shift to second."
I'm freaked all the hell out.
This car costs more than my life is worth so the idea of dropping the transmission out behind a discount store is terrifying to me - as is second gear.
I get going again, avoiding the craters that are in the middle of the pavement and worrying about scraping the nose of the car that's practically level with the ground, and - I go to shift in to second.
GRRIND, SQWEEESH! CHUGGGA!
"Uh - ?" I slam on the brake and the clutch and stare at my hubby who pointed to the dash sheepishly.
"Um, see, I kinda forgot to tell you, but, um, in this car, where it's a corvette, it has this thing, a '1 to 4 shift' thing. It locks out second and third gear to save you gas." He giggled nervously and blinked like I was gonna backhand him through the rag top.
Which I contemplated.
"Okay." I said. I put it into first and after a few attempts managed to make it on to a little hill.
"Stop!" Harry yelled - and I obeyed by stalling the car.
"It's very hard to drive a standard on a hill without rolling backwards so - give it some gas - put it in first and -" he motioned up the parking lot.
"I don't wanna." Visions of fiery crashes filled my head. I was positive that I would slam the gas and end up a bright purple rocket that would wreak havoc across Route 60 before ending up as a fireball a few minutes later - dooming us both to our untimely deaths.
"You can do this." He was being so sweet.
I put it in gear and maneuvered from the brake to the gas and instantly turned Harry's car into a large, purple and yellow grasshopper.
"That's it! I'M DONE! YA KNOW, SOME PEOPLE WERE JUST NOT MEANT TO DRIVE STANDARDS - SOME PEOPLE WERE MEANT TO BE DRIVEN AROUND IN STANDARDS! IT'S RIDICULOUS TO HAVE TO PUT THAT MUCH THOUGHT INTO DRIVING A CAR! WHY CAN'T THEY JUST KEEP IT SIMPLE?! P,R,N,D! SIMPLE!" I continued my tirade until I had hopped out of the car and circled it and was once again resting in my rightful place : the passenger seat.
I plan on staying there.
Spotter of deer.
Just not - "driver."