There are common things that people do every day that I have never done or cannot do. I’ve never changed a flat tire, for example. I’ve never had to, thankfully.

And I can’t drive a standard. In my defense, they are becoming less and less common so the opportunities are not what they once were to practice or learn. But it’s not like I have never tried.

For a short period, my ex-husband and I had a Triumph TR6. We came upon owning it in a somewhat unusual way. At least I thought it was unusual. Over dinner one night at our favourite Italian restaurant in the town we lived, he announced that he had purchased a car. No discussion prior, he just found it and bought it. It was at a friend’s shop and seemed too good to pass up.

I’ll admit, I don’t think I took it very well. We had three young boys and a small business that was a growing concern, it just didn’t seem like the practical thing to do. Admittedly though, it was a great-looking car. The thought of bopping around town, top down (the car top, that is) and music pouring out of the speakers was pretty enticing.

One problem. I didn’t know how to drive a standard.

“No problem,” he assured me. He would teach me.

Proceed with caution

There are a few things in life that test the relationship with your spouse and should only be attempted with a great deal of caution and patience, if ever. Family staying for lengthy visits. Assembling Ikea furniture. Hanging wallpaper. And teaching your partner how to drive a standard. I’ll let you know right up front, this issue is not why we are now exes; that’s a whole other story. A few of them actually but that’s for another day. Or maybe not.

Suffice to say, the lesson (singular) did not go well but he was insistent that I could teach myself just by driving slowly to start, around our neighbourhood. Since I had grown to enjoy the car and I fancied myself being moderately intelligent, I accepted the challenge.

Out I went, top down (again, the car, not mine!) and optimism practically gushing from my pores.

How hard could it be?

Very. The answer is very hard. I immediately flashed back to my days of learning how to drive, feeling overwhelmed that I had to monitor the speed, steering, watch my mirrors, braking, signals… so much! Here I was years later trying to figure out a clutch, gas, and gear shift, and feeling just as inept. And as I made my way, slowly, choppily, around the block that our house was on for the fourth time, I hear someone yell at me, “take it out of first!”

Learning is NOT automatic

Not everyone is made to drive a standard. Just sayin’.

I should have known before I even started that my status as ‘Clutz Extraordinaire’ would prevent me from succeeding at this task of epic coordination. If there is something to trip over, I will be the one to do it. Heck, I even trip when there isn’t anything there to trip me. I bump into things regularly. Falling down is a common occurrence for me. Happens all the time. Just ask John, my partner or my girlfriends. They know!

But I am also determined. So, working at this until the movements clicked and became natural was certainly in my wheelhouse. What isn’t is the idea of my neighbours heckling me as I learned.

And that’s the story of when I didn’t learn how to drive a stick.

As it turned out, it didn’t really matter. We ended up selling the car back to the friend after it spent five weeks in the shop and only one week on the road.

The story does have a happy ending, though. I now drive an Audi A5 convertible. Automatic. The open road beckons.

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