Passage and gauges

August 16, 2010

This weekend I helped a young man of my acquaintance begin his instruction in the dying art of driving a stick shift.

I took my old Dodge truck, a well-worn workhorse nearly 30 years old. It has a five-speed that’s a little cranky at times, but good for the instruction of a 14-year-old – we’ll call him T —  whose experience with driving has mostly been via computer games which, unlike real life, have a reset button.

His dad had first honors, of course. A boy’s first experiences behind the wheel should be with his dad, if he’s lucky enough to have one around.

Part of the experience, of course, is to be reassured that sudden stalls, jackrabbit starts, and slung gravel have all been done before and are nothing to be ashamed of. The reassurances come, of course, with the recounting of a few examples from our own youth. They also come with the proviso that we will tell everybody about the more extravagant errors committed by our student, but we will end with comments about how much better, after all, he did than we did.

It’s just part of the tradition. Everybody in my high school, for example, knew how I had gotten the drivers’ education car, an enormous burgundy ’65 Chevy Belair with a manual tranny, up on two wheels in a parking lot.

I had a lump on the back of my head for a week from where the coach’s UGA class ring whacked me after that one.

T. talked about different kinds of vehicles all day. How he wants to have a 4×4 pickup truck for hauling stuff, a sports car for going fast, a motorcycle, and an ATV. I think he also mentioned a jet-ski.

Yeah, me, too.

I had forgotten how important all that is when a boy is that age, before he gets his first real taste of freedom with his own drivers’ license and, if he’s really lucky, his own car. I bought my own, and they were real junkers. There’s no better way to learn about the operation of a vehicle than to own one that needs a lot of tinkering to keep it operating.

Back then, in the 1960s, I could tell you the make and model of everything on both sides of the road. Today, I can still do that, as long as whatever is on either side of the road was build in the 1960s or before. Almost everything else looks equally indistinguishable.

There was something else I had forgotten about being 14 or so. Something that occupies most of a young fella’s attention at that age.

On the way to see a blood-and-guts action movie (lots of muscle, car chases, explosions, and gun-fire…a perfect guy pic) T asked me if I had ever noticed that the clear plastic covers on the instrument panel, conical with black plastic tips, looked just like breasts.

I had never noticed. I had always been looking at the gauges.

“No, I never noticed that,” I told him. “However, I promise you that I will never be able to look at those gauges the same way, ever again.”
© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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