I’ve been driving since I was 14 (legally, with a hardship license – to work, school, and church. Do they have those anymore?). I’m 65 years young as I write this. That’s 51 years plus some of driving with one accident. ONE! When I was 19, pulling out of a side street into a curve with low visibility. My fault, no one was hurt. Which had absolutely nothing to do with driving with two feet.
I’ve been ridiculed by my friends, harassed by my husband, and generally told I’m doing it wrong. And I still don’t understand why.
My Daddy taught me to drive when my mother decided she didn’t have the patience at my ripe old age of 13. My Daddy was the car guru, anyway. He worked at Ford Glass Company, which is not there anymore, but was a significant employer in Nashville years ago. Daddy and his friends at work would trade cars back and forth like they were baseball cards, with a few dollars involved. So, the first car my dear Daddy brought home to teach me to drive had three pedals in the floor. Now I had been driving an old go-cart around for several years (it was the perfect way to dry your hair if your hair was wrapped around soup cans, but that’s another story), and it only had two pedals. I didn’t see the need for three pedals, but Daddy thought it was necessary.
Besides the fact that this puke-green yucky color car was made the same year I was born – a 1954 Studebaker – it was ugly – ugly, ugly, ugly. I am quite sure that someone is ready to scream at my ignorance of the beauty of this majestic vehicle, and probably the worth of this car, should I have kept it in its pristine condition; I still do not appreciate the ‘vintage.’ A big ‘But’ here – it was a car, and I was thrilled to have a car. I had a job and could soon take myself to work.
Back to the lessons from my Daddy. Or both of them, should I say. We only had two driving lessons in this vintage automobile. The first lesson was only around the block. After jerking back and forth and finally making it up the hill that seemed insurmountable – you could lay down on the pavement and see over it, but it seemed high at the time – I stalled and jerked my way back home. And preceded to jerk up the driveway and onto the carport. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop there, still proceeding through the shed my Daddy had built onto the back of the carport. I didn’t actually get all the way through the shed; mostly I just knocked it into the back yard a bit more than it should have been. There were still some tools and stuff inside that looked usable.
Daddy loved me. He assured me I would do better next time and called a couple of his friends to see if they could help him move/rebuild the toolshed he had lovingly crafted several months before. He never raised his voice and made me feel as if it was the shed’s fault for being there in the first place. His voice was a little high-pitched, though.
I asked my Daddy before we went for our second lesson why I needed to drive a car with three pedals. He said that everyone should know how to drive a straight shift. As every thirteen-year-old girl knows, her Daddy knows everything, so I was sure he was right. Fourteen was a different story; that’s when I found out my parents were oblivious to everything important.
For our second lesson, I registered a first in my small community. Since I was doing so well, and had only stalled twice and remembered to gradually take my left foot off while slowly using my right foot – most of the time – we ventured out to the main road. In our little village, everyone knew everyone back then. And cheered on their neighbors, or cried with them. So, when we passed the elementary school down the road, I was thrilled to have others see me driving, even though I was driving the ugliest, puke-green car on the planet. My problem came when I needed to turn, and the turn included a small dip in the road. I assumed that I would need to do something with that clutchy-thing since it was a hill, after all (no matter how small) but became confused about what to do with my other foot, the right one. Did I keep it on the gas or put on the brake? During this decision-making hour (it seemed), I somehow didn’t remember to keep turning the wheel – thankfully, I was far away from the school and school had not let out yet – Daddy had told me that before we ventured down that road – but the patrol lady was there. I’m pretty sure I would have missed her; Daddy is absolutely sure I would have missed her, but evidently she wasn’t so sure. So, she jumped into the ditch. A little prematurely, I was still 100 feet away when the car stopped.
At this point, I freaked. And didn’t push any pedals. Which was a good thing, I suppose. The car stalled. My Daddy and I both jumped out to check on the patrol lady, a dear soul that knew every child in Old Hickory. That dear lady comforted me when I said I was never going to drive again.
I can look back now and smile, and be thankful that I was going approximately 1½ miles per hour, and no one was hurt. I was absolutely, positively sure that I would never get behind the wheel again.
Until the next day. When my wonderful Daddy brought home another Studebaker, this one was also a dull green – not puke-green, more like dying grass green (or that could have been the rust). It was newer – 1963! – And automatic! Only two pedals! One for each foot! Perfect.
Or not. Or so everyone else says.