When I turned 18 years old, the summer before I started college my Dad bought me a car. He showed up one day with a 1978 Burgundy Plymouth Horizon-Manual shift. “Hop in and I’ll show you how to drive it but I don’t have a lot of time because I have an appointment back in the city,” he said in that deep gruff voice that often scared many of people. I hopped into the driver’s seat door and was immediately greeted with three pedals. Whoa, but cool!
My Dad spent about thirty minutes of car jerky motions but by the time he left, I was well on my way to getting the hang of driving a stick shift, and loving it. Don’t we all have first car stories and fond memories of beat up vehicle we proudly drove around town? My car’s driver’s side door wouldn’t open from the inside. I had to roll down the window to reach for the outside handle to get out of the car. On those rare occasions, something would catch just right and open from the inside. It stalled frequently but that was not completely operator’s fault, and the muffler was starting to go. But no worries. It was MY car.
One day, I took my little sister, who was about 12 years old to Fox Valley Mall because I wanted more practice driving this little manual shift on a long stop and go trip. By this age, she had wisely learned to trust me but only for so much. To this day, she reminds me of the dryer story. The mall was approximately 40 minutes from our home with lots of traffic lights along the way so I had lots of opportunities to work the clutch and gas pedal and brakes. Once we reached the Mall, I was so proud of myself and this little accomplishment that I shifted into neutral and jumped out of the car to do my little happy dance. I could hear the music streaming from the car but I could also hear something else. It was my little sister screaming. As I turned back, I saw my car rolling away with my scared spit less sister. I ran towards my escaping car, flung open the door, jumped in and stomped on the brakes. I remember my heart feeling like it was banging against my chest. As I huffed and puffed, trying to calming my jittery hands, I looked over at my sister who looked back at me with unforgiving eyes.
After I yanked the emergency brake bar upward, I noticed a security patrol car driving down another isle. My momentary sense of accomplishment flew right out of the window because I knew that this little adventure could have been so much worse.
As I looked back at my sister, I said, “Don’t Tell Mom.”