I have had the pleasure of being able to drive a manual vehicle also referred to as stick shift. Many people are afraid of the concept of stick shift and I can understand learning it to be scary, I was even scared to learn stick shift. I overcame this anxiety however and it became a trivial task and eventually muscle memory, now even when I drive an automatic I feel myself reaching for the clutch and putting my hand by the gear shift and stopping suddenly to realize I am not in my truck. This all came from one day, a festive day, a day for gifts and giving, even in some cases a little bit of a prank or mischief on a grand scale. The day I got my Truck and the same day I learned how to drive stick.
To start, it was Christmas day I asked Mommy and Dad for a drone or a duck hunting gun. I never really cared for driving I was in a pretty serious car accident a few years before which traumatized me. Regardless both my mom and my dad decided to buy me a truck. A big red truck, a Dodge Ram 2500 Cummings Diesel engine fit for towing and had a long bed for carry capacity. There was one catch however and that was that the big red truck was stick shift. So, on Christmas morning you can be sure I was surprised to see it.
It was kind of odd like I knew something was off maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe it was the fajita from the night before but I surely felt that things were indeed tilted. Usually I would have many articles of clothing at the very least. However, I never found one not a sock or Pair of briefs. Not a single thing was handed to me by “Santa” at least not till the very end of the giving. A small square was handed to me. Wrapped in red paper with little Santa figures on it. I unwrapped it posthaste. Under all the paper, tassels and ribbons strewn all around the living room I found myself looking at a little box with a teeny tiny drone. I was laughing of course and set it aside, I always felt it was disrespectful to open a gift from its container in front of gift givers. My parents insisted that I did open it however. So, I did slide the plastic flap open and plop went a pair of keys on my lap. I was shocked. I did not know how to feel’ I still lack words to describe exactly how it was, with the ones I do know I can say Confused, bewildered, stunned, and startled. It was one of those “Oh Shit” moments that you hear about people having but don’t expect to be seeing.
On that same day, not even thirty minutes later Dad and I took the truck out and drove it around. We were out for what felt like all day but was probably closer to an hour or two. We went up and down Beaumont, Through Oak Glen, Towards and into Yucaipa, and only took side roads.
Dad and I got into the truck. I had the keys in hand and started to put them in. I motioned my hands towards the key hole and then all the sudden without warning, “Stop Jake!” my dad said with his booming voice. I was just going with the flow didn’t even think about going over anything on the inside and was under the impression that starting this truck would be like starting any other vehicle I had driven before. I wrong was again I should admit, he told me how to shift “Push in the Clutch… Move the gear shift to second…. Now third.” He was telling me for when we were under way. However, my Dad could have saved his breath there was no need to tell me so much information so soon, and with that, we got nowhere. I pressed the gas and released the clutch too quickly, this resulted with the truck coming to a quick stall. The truck rumbled and shook then suddenly stopped. I looked at my dad with those eyes of fear for breaking something and with eyes that said shit and he told me to get the fuck out. We switched spots and I watched his hands and legs. Took note of how he moved. The notes were pointless like when you are in elementary school and you just write running notes and end up with an unorganized paragraph of words that only got me going about 30 feet and I tried to shift. “Don’t do that yet you dummy!” I heard and then the truck stalled again, “your RPM watch it”. I never cared to look at that gage before because it holds less weight in an automatic. He let me stay put in the driver seat this time for actually getting us to move but that doesn’t mean he was all sunshine and rainbows. That was my dad. Never rainbows but told you how it was. So, when I stalled, he told me exactly what was wrong. He is a micromanager, from how my foot placement was wrong and how I should hold my hands on the wheel, how my seat was too far back, how my shirt didn’t complement the interior. You know “simple” things. Things I wasn’t told. So, when we got going again we made it down the street and up a hill, over the hill. I was driving stick cold winter wind hitting my face telling me my speed because I had no want to peer at the speedometer. Then I was going down, down, down the hill towards another stop sign and I stopped, and stalled. I continued to start the truck up again and act like no one saw me even if my dad was right next to me. I then turned the truck right on the corner.
We, my dad and I drove down Brookside Ave. A well trafficked road that was dead silent due to it being Christmas day. Made a right down Oak Valley parkway. My dad was quiet this whole time which was odd for him. Passing homes until we got to the end of the road. “Turn Right” Dad said, I obeyed. We went right past a gas station. Past a Rite Aid, Past the old people’s homes and zoomed towards a bridge that went over the I-10.
At this point I felt cocky, confident. I even I felt like stick was no big deal, like I owned stick like it was my bitch, it wasn’t my bitch however, I was its bitch and all I had to do was not accelerate enough or drop the clutch for it prove it. We got over the bridge and came to a stop sign and dad like before said “right”. I knew where we were, he knew where we were too. We were at the steepest hill in town. Something like a hundred-foot elevation change in about 150 feet more or less. I shriveled up like a raisin inside. All those confident feelings I had inside dissipated and evaporated like gas does on a hot day. I started going like I would before from the stops, a little gas and slowly let the clutch out, all in vain. I needed a lot more gas for the climb of the hill I was going up. The truck sputtered, bogged, and coughed. We stalled not even a quarter of the way up. Dad looked at me with calm eyes I think he expected this, He planned for it, franticly we swapped seats. We popped back in and I laughed for a second, Dad laughed too with a “Ha”. He started the truck, pushed in the clutch, moved the stick to second gear, gave an inordinate amount of gas and let the clutch go slowly, at the time I thought it was perfect the way he could move the stick and how the ride was smooth. It was like meeting that famous individual you always wanted to meet but felt you never had any chance to. We were moseying up the hill. “No problems” I thought to myself “I am learning from a master”. I wasn’t.
I look back at that now picking apart everything he had done wrong and feel like I need to teach him stick all over again. I feel like he needs the micro management, every little thing he does when he drives my truck I want to pick at and prod and boast about who is better, childish things. Then, I look back and see that I was in much worse shape stalling instantly or not even knowing how to start the thing or how to use the clutch. I look back and notice that stick shift had taught me something valuable about him as a person and about myself, someone I thought to be a master but was just a journeyman. I learned my dad was not perfect but just a regular guy like everyone else.
To conclude, I now know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission and have been doing so to and from school every day. I also learned something else afterward writing this Narrative. Not to sweat the small stuff, not to pick apart a person’s mistakes like a crow and instead help the person, help them improve from these mistakes and grow to become a master not perfect but perfectly good.