As any teenager does, I begged Dad to teach me to drive. His excuse for not teaching me was that we had only shift cars and it is easier to drive an automatic. Never mind that once I learned to drive on an automatic car I wouldn't actually be able to drive either of our family cars. I remember the summer that I was about to turn 16, I was particularly desperate to learn to drive. Growing up we spent the entire summer in Maine. I know, poor me. But, as a kid the beautiful scenery and temperate weather were not big selling points when all I wanted to do was work at TCBY and hang out at the pool. Our cabin in Maine is about as rustic and isolated as they come. You have to traverse not one, but two badly-rutted dirt roads to get to the house. My parents got electricity and running water the summer before I was born, but prior to that they had gas lamps and went to the pump house and hand pumped the water when they wanted to take a shower or wash the dishes. So, you get the picture of why this might not be a dream vacation spot for a teenager?
The summer when I was 15, I was desperate to escape the house and was nagging Dad for driving lessons. As luck would have it, some family friends were visiting with a rental car that happened to be an automatic. After dinner and probably a few too many glasses of wine, Dad decided that we would borrow the car and he'd give me a driving lesson. Why my parents' friend, Bry who had actually signed the rental car contract, agreed with the plan to have a 15 year old who'd never driven before get a driving lesson on his rental vehicle, I can't imagine. I think they may have also had martinis before the wine. Bry's son, Thad who was 17 decided he was up for the adventure/ordeal and came with us.
Dad drove the half-mile from the cottage to the top of our dirt driveway, where it hooked into another, even rougher dirt road. At that point, he let me take the wheel. Just so y'all get the full picture of the craziness of this idea; we are in the woods, there are no street lights, it is dark as the inside of a bag, the road is rutted like an Appalachian bootlegging route, and I'd never driven before in my life. The totality of my instruction was, "the skinny pedal is the accelerator and the big one is the brake." I stepped on the accelerator and within five seconds we were off the road and driving through the forest. Dad was yanking on the wheel and all the men were shouting, "BRAKE!" at me as we went careening past spruce trees and saplings slapped the undercarriage of the car. I got it together and stomped on the brake in time to stop us from hitting a rather large boulder.
Thad was dispatched to run to the cabin to fetch another car and some rope so that they could drag the rental car out of the woods. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when he walked into the house and told the story. I can only imagine the eye rolling that ensued on the part of Mom and Bry's wife, Sue. As for me and the men in the woods, it became clear that I had done everyone a huge favor. Men, I discovered, like nothing better than figuring out how to get vehicles unstuck. I've not done any scientific study of this phenomenon, but I'm telling you, if you want to get a group of men working together happily, drive your car into someone's koi pond and look helpless.
I tell this story because of a minor driving mishap that I had earlier today. The last time we had the minivan (or the "swagger wagon" as the K likes to call it) at the shop, the mechanic mentioned that the tires were wearing strangely and should probably be replaced. Ugh. So, I followed the K over to Kauffman Tire to see about getting some new tires. As we pulled into the parking lot, the K kindly drove past the first space to let me take it. I just knew that I couldn't make the turn to get into the spot he'd left me. But, of course there were no other spaces, so I tried. Here's what happened:
Yes, I jumped the curb and it took the K and two mechanics to get me out of my predicament. The K's first suggestion was that I get in the driver's seat while the men all pushed, but I refused.
"I'll just make it worse," I said.
"How is that possible?" he asked, looking at the current situation.
"Somehow there will be a group of nuns walking behind me and I'll run them all down when I back out."
"Nuns? Nuns with babies, probably."
"Nuns pushing a bunch of premature babies in incubators and I'll take them all out."
So, William, the manager shoved the jack under the frame, another employee got behind the wheel, and the K did his best Incredible Hulk and pushed the car back over the curb. I tell you, it's times like these that I'm glad a married someone built like an offensive tackle. I'm going to enter him in one of those Strong Man competitions. Here is the swagger wagon safe on terra firma:
I felt like a fool until I realized that I had made their collective day. Despite what my spotty driving record might suggest, the K really has little opportunity to extricate cars from precarious positions, and said he felt like a high schooler again. And the Kauffman employees would be able to go regale their families with the story of the "woman driver" who they saved when her minivan was teetering on a precipice. It's nice to know that my crappy driving brought people together. Also, I found a great shirt for the K:
Have a great weekend!