14 March 2011

Memories Monday - Learning to Drive

Today's Meet Me on Monday made me think of learning to drive.  When I was really young, around 8 maybe, my Dad used to let me either shift the gear shift or sit on his lap and steer.  No worries: it was always just up our driveway and never where other drivers could be in danger.

I moved to Florida to live with my dad when I was 15.  In Florida, you can get your learner's permit at 15 and your license at 16.  One of the first things I did was get my learner's permit so I could be foot loose and fancy free.  Yeah, things never happen the way you expect.

I was going to be taking my driver's test on an automatic transmission car, but my dad wanted to make sure I knew how to drive a stick.  You never know when you might be called on to drive one.  So we took his little S-15 to the back roads of North Port (back when there still were back roads in North Port).  While I never had to deal with hills, I did have to deal with a lot of other things, like poor visibility at stop signs and dirt roads.  It took me a little while to get the hang of the clutch.  But I learned it and felt confidant enough to drive it without worrying about what my dad would think.

I didn't actually get my license until I was 17.  I had my own car to drive but for some reason, my folks didn't take me for awhile.  The closer I got to graduation, though, the more they thought it might be a good idea.  But there were a few other things I needed to learn first.

See, I'm a mechanic's daughter.  I remember being in the service station that my dad owned, watching him change tires with the cars lifted into the air, checking fluids, changing oil.  I remember wanting to help him pump gas for customers (but never being allowed to do so) and being fascinated by the air pump that filled up customer's tires.  He lost the station when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and then moved to Florida.  But that didn't mean that knowing how a car works was any less important for me.

Daddy taught me how to check my fluids, how to change my own oil (and I got COVERED with oil the first time I did it), pump my own gas and change my own tires.  Until I was able to do all of those things, I wasn't able to get my license.  I wasn't to be dependent on anyone else for simple maintenance.  The harder stuff (like changing out a faulty starter or changing my breaks) I went to Daddy for while he could still do it.  Even now, I'm willing to get under the car to do these things if Dad will advise me.

A lot of people are surprised that I know these things.  My husband, who grew up in New Jersey where they don't trust you to pump your own gas, had me be the pumper whenever we were in Philly or NY for visits to family in friends.  Now that we're in TN and it's a requirement, he's a lot more comfortable with it.

One of my favorite tire stories was when we were visiting with friends back in NJ.  We'd borrowed my father-in-law's car for a trip to dinner with friends. Rich's best friend Steve and his wife Jessie were with us.  Along the way, the tire blew.  We pulled into a parking lot and Steve called AAA.  They said it was going to be an hour before they'd get there.  We would have been incredibly late.  So I pushed up my sleeves, pulled the donut from the trunk and proceeded to change the tire.  It took me about 15 minutes and we were on the road again.  The rest of our group were pretty surprised, and I was pretty proud.

It's all part of driving, in my opinion.