“Why are you wearing flip flops?” asks Dad.
“Well, I drive barefoot.”
“Your feet will get tired.”
“I’ll handle it.”
Dad and I jumped in the car, and he drove us to the church parking lot.
“It’s like I’m 16 and learning to drive again!” I joke.
“Well, you are learning to drive. A stick shift,” says my ever-logical father.
He starts the process of explaining how the clutch works – what it does for the engine. Technical talk to fill up my brain.
I push in the clutch, and turn on the car.
“Ok, push the accelerator and let’s bring it up to 2,000 rpm. Listen to the engine, hear what 2,000 sounds like. Then slowly let off the clutch.”
I listen. I let off.
“Ok, let’s do it again.”
We try that for a while. Lots of jerking.
“Ok, let’s try something different.” He puts on the e-brake. “Let off the clutch, we’re looking for the slip. Feel the slip of the clutch.”
I feel it. We take off the brake, and try to let go of the clutch, and push on the accelerator; simultaneously.
The engine dies.
“That’s ok. Again.”
The engine dies.
We keep trying. As the engine dies for the 250th million time, hot tears spill down my cheeks. I pretty much am a 16-year-old-frustrated-at-learning-to-drive-and-not-being-perfect-at-it again.
“Don’t get frustrated,” my father calmly says.
Yeah, I’ll work on that…
“Ok, pull into a parking spot. Right, good. We’re going to go in reverse. Now the engine power is lower in reverse. You can’t let go of the clutch, you have to slip the clutch. Let’s just go in reverse for a while.”
And it finally starts to make sense. I feel what slipping the clutch is! I’m going backwards, the car’s not dying!!!!
“Ok, good. You feel it? Right. Let’s go forward now.”
And now, I can go forward! We’re not dying! Sure, I’m jerking at least half the time, but I’m not killing the engine!
“Ok, let’s go out of the parking lot. We’ll turn up the street and go up to the Smith’s house the next street up.”
Attempt to pull out of the parking lot: successful
Going up the hill: successful
Turn onto the next street: successful
“Let’s stop, we’re going to practice e-brake stop and start to go up a hill.”
I stop on the hill. Pull the e-brake. Clutch and accelerator. Release e-brake. Engine dies.
Repeat. Car rolls back.
Repeat. Engine dies.
“Maybe this wasn’t the best idea,” dad ponders.
We eventually, eventually get over the hill, and then safely back to the church lot.
Dad takes over from there and we drive home.
That night is filled with dreams of clutch failing on steep hills at a stoplight with cars behind me…