A few days ago on another blog, a friend of mine asked her readers if they could drive a clutch and if so, when they learned. Although her other friend (who shall remain nameless to protect the maimed, just like in this post) also reads her blog, she chose not to chime in. But, the story of "Wren" trying to learn to drive the clutch must be told. Honestly, it's just too fun to pass up. And as always, completely lacking any hyperbole. And best of all, I was there. Every single time she popped that clutch, I had a knuckle biting front row -and a little to the side- seat.
For those of you who don't know "Wren", she is a gem. Honestly, she is one of those girls who lights up a room. She always has been. I was lucky enough to spend several summers with her family, and there were times that she would stand in the center of the room, telling a story, and we all sat around her, mesmerized. She is also adorable. Everything about her is cute, except her feet which are an entirely different story. (Those are some feet, let me tell you!) And she is kind as well, so everyone enjoyed being around her. I only tell all of these truths so that she won't be quite so angry after I recount every sordid detail of her driving. OK, not every detail. There are a few things that happened before she got her license which I did not witness. She can breathe a little easier that those will remain a secret. For now.
"Wren" is short- hence the reason I chose the nickname, not because it rhymed with her real name in any meaningful way at all. She's 5'3" and I'm 5'7" so, on the fateful day of her first clutch driving lesson, there was much adjustment of the seat, the mirrors, the seatbelt. I adjusted my seatbelt a lot. You know, just making sure it was secure. Not that I was worried. Well, maybe a little. I myself had learned to drive clutch late one night, in the middle of nowhere when my sister and her friends were not only too drunk to drive home, but also too drunk to teach me how to drive a clutch. I could barely drive an automatic and I was out on a deserted dirt road lurching and stalling, trying to both move forward and help people hang heads out windows to puke at the same time. But, after a few rough starts and stops, I got the hang of it and managed to get everyone and the car home safe and sound.
Clearly, it was a good idea for Wren to ask me to teach her to drive the clutch. And it's worth mentioning, that she was already a good driver. She drove a giant extended bed crew cab truck just like it was a Porsche. She was just dying for the power a clutch could bring her.
For some reason, all of this coalesced in a mostly gravel parking lot in a little tiny sleepy town known as Basin, Wyoming. We were in town for a family reunion and had just tried to get burgers only to find out that the burger stand was closed. Permanently. Was she mad? Maybe a little, but not nearly as mad as the rednecks driving past in their hopped up truck when she popped that clutch the first time. It was a good one too, lots of smoke from the tires as she built up speed, much kicking of the gravel as the gears engaged, resulting in a soft pinging as she blanketed that truck in an even coating of pock marks. But, the best of all, full on shredding from the parking lot and onto the asphalt, only to jolt a few times and stall completely. And the look on her face? A mixture of shock and horror. I mean, she honestly had no idea a car could do such things.
Realizing the gravel lot was a bad place for a first lesson, we took the car to a church parking lot and practiced a lot of easing on and off the clutch, equalizing the gas, really being one with the car. Listening to its needs and desires. And there was much improvement in her driving.
After the reunion, we all went home and a few months later, I took the car out to visit "Wren". Just like a duck to water, she hopped right back into that driver's seat and began lurching her way across the greater Las Vegas area. I have always marveled that she was capable, under severe pressure, of stalling the car 3 times in one intersection. The people screaming obscenities behind us didn't really help her get the car out of the road. Nor did the honking of horns. And if truth be told, the "Help me" sign that our lucky passenger was clutching to the window did nothing to instill confidence either.
But we made it home, eventually. And to this day, she still drives a stick. So , if you live in Utah, beware.