OK! So I told you ALL about my first car! Well, not all, but certainly all or more than you needed to know! I loved that car – really, but I had a hankering for getting myself a new one, after I was out of school and “makin’ a livin’!” (Yeah!) So I went shopping for a place that had a car I wanted, and that also wanted my car in trade. There were two likely candidates: Honda’s Civic was new on the market – with a nice price tag of just under $1,000. (Yes, I KNOW!!! I’m THAT old!). I really liked it, but I also felt it didn’t quite suit me. I almost bought it, but I went down the street to the Volkswagen dealership, which was featuring its new Rabbit! Now there was a car I could love, and I knew it could love me! I was shooting for rock-bottom pricing. While I couldn’t get the price as low as the Civic, I got pretty close. My recollection is that I ended up paying about $1100. In order to get it that low, I got one with no frills, except for AC (I think!), and a genuine AM/FM radio! Yay! It was neon orange. Everybody saw me coming! Oh one more thing. It was “4-on-the-floor” standard, stick transmission. No big deal – it’s just that I had never driven “4-on-the-floor” standard, stick transmission – nor any other sort of standard transmission. Never. The day I picked up my car and drove it home was the first time I had ever been in the driver’s seat of a car with standard. OK.
It was an interesting, and incredibly exciting day for me. You will note that the word “hubris” comes into the title of these posts. Hubris is defined as “excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.” That about nails it! Excessive pride and arrogance – presumptuous arrogance, I might add! Hey! I figured, everybody and his brother can drive these things, why can’t I? I mean, what’s the big deal? Just mash the clutch-pedal with your left foot, press the gas-pedal with your right foot, let up the clutch and go! Hit the clutch pedal when you want to change gears and move faster! Right?? No problem! I was 23. I knew what I was doing! I was a GROWN WOMAN, capable of making my own choices and decisions!
The dealer kindly handed over the keys to me after giving me a quick overview on how to drive the car and showed me the features I would need to know about right away. The emergency hand brake (always engaged when parked – new to me!), windshield wipers – YAY! They turned on and off without having to open the hood! – and other ordinary things any car owner wants to know. “Yes, yes, yes,” I said. I’ve got it! Thank you! the salesman watched me as I drove away. Actually, while I tried to drive away. My memory has not always been that great, but in my excited state it had narrowed considerably. I forgot about the parking brake. Didn’t remember that you have to release it in order to drive the car. I’ve found that generally cars tend to drive better without the emergency brake engaged. Of course, I didn’t discover that was the problem right away. Took me a while. Eventually, the dealer ran up to me, pointed out my error, and then waved goodbye again! My red-faced reply was to sputter, “Oh, of course! Thank you!” and I once again attempted to drive away.
By this time, there was a regular little “Baptist meeting” going on around the dealership – all gathered to watch me attempt to drive my new car off the lot. While I didn’t actually witness it, I am quite certain that wagers were made on the odds of my being able to get away 1.) with no major damage to my new car, or 2.) without any outside help to drive me home. Don’t know about the other wagering particulars, but I will tell you that if you bet against me, you lost!
After repeating my mantra, “Paula, you can do this! Paula, you can do this!” several times, I took a deep breath, depressed the clutch, disengaged the brake, put my foot on the gas pedal, and prayed: “God in heaven! Get me out of here with at least one small shred of dignity, please!” My Rabbit then exited the lot – living up admirably to its name – it hopped off, lurching across the lot, down the driveway, and onto the road! Sounds of laughter and “Good luck! You’ll need it!” were heard in my wake, but I got out of there.
The driving started to smooth out for me over the next mile or so. With very little stuttering, and starting to feel a bit more confident, I soldiered on. I was going to make it home just fine! “Please, Lord! Just don’t let me have to come to a stop light while going up-hill! I don’t want to crash into someone my first day!” You see, I knew there was a distinct possibility of this happening. There was one intersection between the dealership and home that featured a traffic light at the top of a hill. “Stay green, stay green, please be green, please be green!” Nope! Just as the light came into view, it turned yellow and then the dreaded red. All I could think was, “God, You really want me to learn how to drive this thing, don’t You!?!”
What happened next is sort of a blur. I guess I tried to wipe most of it from my memory. I do know, however, that I got home! I have a vague recollection of a feeling of “shooting out of the gate,” but as there was no crash or sirens, I guess I did all right.
When I got home, I honked the horn to let my family know I had arrived, and I wanted to show off my new car. They came out to the driveway, and I got out of the driver’s seat. On standing up I realized that my knees were not going to be very cooperative, so I stuck a smile on my face, said, “Isn’t he great? (His name was ‘Harvey” the rabbit)” and leaned for support against the hood of the car. Comments like, “It’s cute!” and “It sure is orange!” floated around me. After accepting all these accolades, I said I was going to take it out for a drive and “break him in.”
I am pretty sure that was the day when my hubris took its swan dive. I don’t think I have ever been quite as presumptuous about my own skills and abilities since that day. Lesson learned. A dose of humility can go a long way toward keeping one’s legs working properly. That “break-in” drive lasted about an hour. I drove to a number of low-traffic areas, and practiced just about every maneuver I might possibly have to utilize. By the time I got home, I could honestly say, “Sure! I can drive a stick!” I still can. And, I actually prefer it – but I haven’t had a standard tranny in a long time. Being one-legged a lot doesn’t lend itself to two-legged driving very well.
There you have it: the true story of how I went from the cocky, hubristic, bragging know-how-to-do-it-all woman I was, to the chastened, humble, know-a-lot-but-definitely-not-all demure woman whose work you are reading now. But, as far as telling stories on myself goes, for now –
I’ve had enough. . .