Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why (baby) I can drive your car

Readers, I'm back. I have learned so much during the last seven weeks, and I can't wait to share it all with you. Actually, the skills I'm most proud of I've picked up in the last few days here in the US of A. For instance, would you believe that for three days this week I was tooling around Raleigh, NC in a manual BMW station wagon? Me, your (perhaps not so) faithful blogger, who has been known to break down in hot tears of anger and frustration at the very suggestion of easing slowly off the clutch while simultaneously pressing the gas? Who has driven countless ex-boyfriends (ok, two) and fathers (fine, one) to the brink of madness and hair-tearing insanity with my hot-then-cold pleas to "Please teach me, I really want to learn" quickly turning to "I can't do this I will not do this and I will never learn to drive stick, and also, by the way, I hate you," followed by a stonily silent ride home, arms folded and pouting in the passenger's seat. Still, I didn't give up, and about once every year or so I would rope whatever unsuspecting manual transmission owner I could into giving me a "lesson." My high point came last summer when I accomplished about 20 minutes of semi-successful gear-shifting on deserted country roads with my dad coaching me from the passenger's seat. I patted myself on the back and called it a day, and hadn't really thought much about it since then.

Until Tuesday, when the powers that be told my co-leader and I that they had a car we could use to drive back and forth from our dorm to the office during our three-day long "debrief" session. Great! we said. "You guys can drive stick, right?" they said. Margaret and I looked at each other, eyes wide. She shook her head. I don't know what came over me, because I surely did not feel confident at all in my ability to drive that car, but for some reason I found myself saying, "Well, I can give it a shot." It's as if after getting through this trip, this 25-day roller coaster ride, I sort of feel like I can do anything. Drive stick? Well as long as there aren't ten kids complaining in the backseat, sure! I'll drive it anywhere you want!

Ultimately, it went about as well as you might expect. I stalled, and I stalled a lot. Though it wasn't that far between the dorm and the office, there were a lot of stoplights, and every one of them was red. Stoplights were the bane of my existence. But dammit, I drove that car. I made it safely to the office every morning and back to the dorm each evening, with the occasional Starbucks run thrown in for good measure. And then, on our very last day there, right before boarding a D.C.-bound train, I drove to the office one last time, and I didn't stall once. It was a beautiful day. And dammit, I drove that car.

I picked up my next new skill also out of necessity, desperate times calling for desperate measures and all that. This story takes place in a sparse and flourescent-lit college dorm room. Our players are two exhausted and frazzled young women who would like nothing better than to settle in with a Papa John's pizza and a refreshing beverage or three for a night in front of the cable t.v. Several months ago, such an evening would have seemed banal, but after nearly a month of deprivation, it now sounds oddly appealing. We watch as the women rifle through drawers and fling open cabinets in an increasingly desperate search for that most elusive of kitchen implements, the bottle opener. Several unsuccessful attempts are made with a steak knife and a metal drain plug. Wounded fingers find their way into pouting mouths. After a pensive silence, we hear one of them say, "Well, I think I've seen this done before..." I'll let the video speak for itself. (And yes, I know it's sideways. Blame my co-leader Margaret's "artistic vision.")


And while I'm no longer sodden with beer, my confidence is still at an all-time high. Seriously, readers, is there anything I can't do? (Wait, don't answer that). All I know is there are two fresh new checkmarks on my Things To Do Before I Die list. Next up: ride a camel and learn how to apply liquid eyeliner. What's on your list?


  1. It's the stonily silent pout that makes you so fetching. Maturity is overrated.

    But you learned two new things! Which many teenage boys mastered by the end of high school. But no matter. You are now the perfect woman! :)

    Anyway it's really great to have you back. You were missed!



    PS--Where, exactly, are you now?

  2. Nicely done. That's my kind of woman

  3. Impressive on both accounts! No wonder you were able to survive the teenagers.

  4. Welcome home!!! Being an old-pro at liquid liner application, perhaps I'll provide you with a how-to video. It takes a steady hand and a "meh...good enough" attitude. I can't do that beer-opener trick. Very impressive. I think I'd be a lot more proud of myself if I didn't have to hand my beer to a guy everytime I wanted one opened...even twist off's.