Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Driving Miss Crazy

Spent the weekend (as normal) in the charming company of the Pirate, who graciously agreed to give up cricket for 2 days so we could hang out in Henley-on-Thames and watch/cheer for the biggest regatta for women in rowing. Bristol entered an 8, a 4, and 3 single scullers. Alas, the 8 and the 4 got knocked out on Friday in the qualifying event, so by the time we got there Saturday at 11 am they had all gone home and were not to be seen. The first of our scullers was eliminated Saturday a.m. as well, so missed seeing her. The next two scullers were eliminated at noon and 1 pm, respectively. And thus it was all over for Bristol. Not one of our women's crews won a single heat. Bah.

So a big disappointment there, but we had a lovely picnic by the riverside (Pirate even surprised me by buying me a whole bottole of Pimms just for me!!! (pretty generous for a tea-totaller -- i guess he really isn't upset about the whole drunken vomitting episode)) with sandwiches and strawberries and pineapple and lovely things to eat. AND we managed to avoid getting rained on all day. So not a total loss. The mud was of Glastonbury proportions, which bothered us not as we had donned appropriate footwear (wellies for me and combat boots for him), but we had great fun laughing at the women in sundresses and cute little high-heeled shoes with bows on them. (Shadenfreude!) Oh, and I bumped into some old team mates from Manchester, which in itself made the day worthwhile. For me, anyway.

With no one from Bristol competing on sunday, and with the P having cancelled his cricket match, there was no need to stay overnight in the B&B we had booked in Maidenhead, so we came home and went back to the Pirate's house for the night.

Sunday was a long, long, loooooong lie-in (crawled out of bed at noon), but we both really needed the sleep.

And then we had the whole day to do whatever we pleased.

This happens so rarely we really didn't know what to do with ourselves. There were no household chores to be done, no projects to be completed...

but I've been asking P for a while to re-teach me how to drive a manual transmission.

Oh Dawkins. What was I thinking???

He was happy to teach me, and so we hopped in the car backwards from our usual seating arrangment. He threw me the keys. I buckled up and turned the ignition.

Let me begin by stating that I havn't driven a manual transmission in 11 years, and then it was only for about a month, to school and back, a trip of roughly 3 miles and speed limit of 40. And I never got all that comfortable with it.

So you can imagine how pleased I was that I pulled out of the driveway very smoothly, with no difficulty switching between the clutch and the accelerator.

It was all downhill from there.

High points include:
  • running over a curb with the left front tire because i was afraid of on-coming traffic (fucking narrow british roads) and hugged the left shoulder too closely
  • sitting through a light through 5 cycles because every time i tried to pull away i stalled and i only had time to make one attempt with each green light. the person stuck behind me was amazingly patient and never honked once. thank you, whoever you are.
  • not being able to find the gear I wanted half the time, and not remembering what gear I was in the other half.
  • a hill start. between the three pedals, steering wheel, gear lever, and hand brake, that SIX items to coordinate. For fuck's sake, i've only got 4 limbs!!! That was the moment I decided manual transmissions should simply be illegal. They are dangerous and unnecessary and a hazard and I hate them i hate them i hate them i hate them i hate them.
  • being told that everything I was taught by an instructor in driving lessons in America is actually wrong and illegal here and will cause me to fail my driving test so i have to unlearn and re-learn everything i have ever been taught about driving. Aaaaaargh!

After 30 minutes we went home, me in tears and Pirate white-knuckled in the passenger's seat. He said, "I could see you getting more and more frustrated, and I didn't think you could take much more of that."

"I don't think you could take much more of that!" I spat back, spraying snot and tears all over his shirt.

He was a reasonably patient teacher, but I think he would have been much better had it not been his gear-box that I was grinding.

Now, I am a reasonably intelligent person. (Exhibit A: PhD)
I have good large motor skills. (Exhibit B: butt-kicking rower)
I have good fine motor skills. (Exhibit C: I type 80 words a mintue w/o looking at the keyboard)
And I am a good driver. (Exhibit D: I have been driving for 12 years and I have a near-perfect record (one speeding ticket). I even worked as a professional truck driver in downtown Boston, Massachusetts (famous for being the WORST city in the USA to drive in) and never once had an accident or collision. I can park anything anywhere.)

I thought this would add up to me being able to master a stick shift without over much difficulty. Far dumber people than I can drive the blasted things, after all. Surely it can't be that hard!

Man, did my ego take a blow. I have never felt so incompetant in my life. I was absolutely humiliated. That was the worst of it. I was still crying 30 minutes after we got out of the car. When Pirate asked me what was wrong I was forced to confess, "It's just that I'm used to being perfect!" It was only half an exaggeration. I've never encountered anything before (with the notable exception of organic chemistry) that I was unable to do. I felt stupid and frustrated and angry with myself and my own inability to learn what ought to have been a simple task.

"What do you want to do now?" asked the P, hugging me.
"Something I'm good at!" I muffled into his shoulder.

90 minutes later when we got out of bed we decided to take a long walk in the woods and enjoy the cool, green, dampness of the forest. we made note of where the blackberry patches were blooming the most prolifically (with the intention of going back for the berries in 6 weeks' time). and P made some more very suggestive (but non-committal) statements about our future, including our (future) garden and (future) children.

One-year anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks. We'll be celebrating with a repeat of the ball that was our first date, and I'll be in the smashing new black gown he had made for me for my birthday last winter. Stay tuned for details!


Sylvia said...

Well, at least the day ended on good terms. With the advent of teenagers learning how to drive, we're going to get ourselves a manual transmission car. Now, I think you have better control over the car with manual tranmission, but am not looking forward to it all the same. Will be kangarooing round the neighbourhood like mad, I know I will.

Sounds as if you had a fab time, anyway.
Go on, the the manual transmission another go - you'll be fine this time!

Loganoc said...

I agree totally - I had an automatic car for years after I passed my driving test and I am still a bit nervous about driving.
I actually had a few refresher driving lessons (very patient instructor, can give you the number if you want) to learn to drive on the left and manual again. Although now I have my own car I am finally getting more relaxed about it - I don't think it means I am actually getting better at driving but at least it doesn't stress me out so much any more!

homo escapeons said...

Here in the Colonies it is understood that manual transmissions are for the illiterate lower classes who cannot read and neglect to put their mark under automatic..

what am I saying they don't even offer stick shifts here because they are an archaic, bloody, nuisance. Standard!
How the hell are you supposed to reach for your double-double in the drive-thru, hold your cell, and tap on your crackberry or laptop if you are required to shift f*cking gears too!?

Neveretheless it's these quaint little remnants of the Industrial Revolution that gives the Old World that certain je ne sais quoi n'est ce pas?

Gadzooks 90 minutes!?

llewtrah said...

I recommend finding a deserted industrial estate (Sunday mornings are good) or large empty car park (e.g. on an industrial estate) and taking the car for a spin round there. This will get you used to the combination of being on the wrong side of the road and having to cope with the gear stick/clutch without the embarrassment of other drivers being present.

My company driver's permit (for driving company cars when I go off-site) says "manual only" as I can't cope with automatic cars. I once drove an automatic Daimler and 20 years later I still have nightmares about being in a car I can't fully control. I jest not.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

sylvia: welcome! no one's yet put forth an arguement to convince me that manuals offer more control. what they offer is better performance if your are really adept at them (ie race car drivers). but for the average pleb going to the store and back, there is no reason whatsoever to have a manual transmission! thanks for the vote of confidence, though! :)

loganoc: i might take you up on that. i probably won't bother with the lessons for some time yet, as right now i don't have the time or money, but after what Pirate's told me about driving tests here I'll definately need one. Despite the fact that I'm already a VERY GOOD DRIVER! (*harumph* this whole system is just so insulting.)

Homo: Hear hear! Bloody stone-aged abominations, that's what they are.
(re: 90 mins. that's not really normal for us. I was tired. Ba-doom ching!)

llewtra: we tried, but couldn't think of one. a colleague at work suggested the Astra Zeneca business park on the north side of town. i think that will be perfect. if he ever lets me drive his car again.

You can't drive an automatic!?!?!?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU????? How is that possible?

Melissa said...

Patience and practice. The skill will come, and it won't take long at all! The first time I tried, I jackrabbited across an intersection on a (by then) red light, stalled, then jackrabbited away again. While the opposing traffic waited. Fast foward to the next day, and I was making smooth left turns through inclined intersections.

Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.

And may I say, 90 minutes is a balm, isn't it?

First Nations said...

congratulations on the most elegant segue in blogging history..."90 minutes later..." sooWEEEET!
manual transmissions are something that you just have to learn from an instructor, i think. of course you can do this. if i can do it (and by claiming skillz i mean i can now use all the gears on the riding lawnmower and dont' laugh because for me that's good) then you can certainly do this.
that said, the manual transmission is SATAN.

Dave said...

Of course, if you could afford lessons from an instructor, they will have a car with dual controls (foot pedals) so will subtly ease the clutch for you, to avoid too much stalling etc.

I would hate my sports car to be automatic - takes all the fun out of driving. Mind you, if I had to spend all my day driving in congested cities, such as I encountered when I visted you, I would probably change my mind (and my car).

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Melissa: yeah, i know i CAN do it, i just sort of resent having to do it because i think the whole thing is just unnecessary because i really think there is no point to manual transmissions off a race track and they ARE dangerous and ought to be illegal. bah. but yes, 90 minutes with a hot, nekkid swashbuckler will cure most ailments. as the Pirate put it, "I know you can learn to drive a manual transmission because you clearly already know how to drive a stick. Woof woof!" *groan*

FN: thanks, i was rather proud of that. at first i was afraid it was too subtle and people would miss it, but everyone seems to have picked up on it. really, i'm awestruck by how carefully you people read the crap i write.
also, your LAWNMOWER has GEARS?!? that's awful. you have my deepest sympathy.

Dave: i cannot fathom that a manual transmission could actually be fun, but to each his own...

Lardy Big Bot said...

Gears are the most fun. I only passed my test two years ago and had the very same should be easy and loads of bubble heads do it but I couldn't. When I did pass however it was the best feeling. Nothing like blasting down country lanes pretending you are in an F1 car....don't give up it will just all click into place .

The Pixy Princess said...

At least you can drive. I'm 27 years old and still cannot operate a motor vehicle. How pathetic is that???

Mrs. Chaucer's Pirate said...

Pixy, I was 27 before I lost my virginity. Between the two, I'd rather have been getting laid than driving a car.