you remember when you learned to drive?
I sure do. Of course, when you learn
to drive in a truly unique vehicle,
as I did, that life experience is
hard to forget. Dad taught me in Vernon,
and what an experience it was.
Learning to drive didn't happen all
that long ago, did it? I mean, it
must have been just a coupla years
ago or so. Seems like only a few short
years ago I first sat behind Vern's
enormous goofy steering wheel, sweaty
palms clutching it tightly, quivering
left leg shaking so badly I could
hardly push in the clutch. I'd coax
Vern from gear to Gnashing gear, as
Dad sat fidgeting beside me, his feet
stamping the floorboard every time
I braked, and one hand grabbing wildly
at the dash. AHHH, those were the
days. I got the hang of things pretty
quickly, I thought, even though Dad
looked a bit worse for the wear as
we bounced into the driveway after
each lesson. But Dad stuck it out,
and before he knew it, he'd made my
sister, two brothers, and me into
great drivers. I wish he were still
here to guide my oldest niece.
on my way home from work, I spotted
a car that looked vaguely familiar.
As I got closer, it looked a bit like
my sister's pale blue Nissan Maxima,
except that it couldn't be hers because
there was some stranger behind the
wheel. As I pulled alongside, I noticed
the stranger was actually....... NO!
It can't be! The stranger was my 15
1/2 year old niece, Sarah! But wait!
She's not OLD enough to drive yet,
is she? My sister was pregnant with
Sarah when Rob and I got married last
summer!! HOLD EVERYTHING. That
wasn't last summer, that was 16 years
ago. I flew on by her, left hand waving
dumbly in the air at her as I tried
to shift from 4th to 5th gear, in
my 4-speed Bug. I mean, this sight
really took my breath away. Sarah
got her learners permit a few weeks
ago, and is fast on her way to the
driver's license. Seeing her sitting
there confidently, both hands on the
wheel, eyes on the traffic light,
brought back lots of memories of my
own first experiences on the road.
Seems like the moment my friends turned
16, they either got a car of had the
use of one. Not so with me. Mom and
Dad let me drive, oh sure, but it
was for necessary trips or errands
for my mom, ONLY. No driving to school.
No driving to go with friends. And,
most of all, no driving for FUN. This
could explain my penchant for driving
just for the sake of driving today.
I ENJOY this activity and drive whenever
I get the chance. Anyway, back to
my friends. If I wasn't allowed to
drive to school, neither did I ever
lack for a ride, since most of my
friends had cars. What kind of cars?
Well, Jeannie usually had her mom's
Ford LTD station wagon, which was
deemed VERY UnCool at the time. Still,
it was wheels and it carried a lot
of us. Debbie used her dad's old 1959
Chevy Impala wagon. It was black,
it was beat, and it was most definitely
Cool. We got that thing into some
pretty unbelievable places. Jill and
I rode in style (or so I thought)
in her dad's 69 Datsun pickup. It
was a Datsun because Nissan hadn't
been invented yet, and this truck
was the closest thing to Truck Cool
there was at the time. What could
be better than a pickup? But, of all
my friends, Carol was the luckiest.
She drove her dad's pale yellow 1970
MUSTANG. It had a black vinyl top,
was nearly new, and was WAY Cool,
for obvious reasons.
I started dating, the guys I went
out with seemed to have nice cars.
I just sort of gravitated towards
the boys with wheels. Early on, I
dated a senior at our high school
who had a 67 Firebird 400. He wasn't
bad-looking himself, but the car sucked
me in. It was bright orange with a
black top and was the neatest thing
around. John and I lasted only briefly,
because even though the car was a
10, the guy was a jerk. After that
there was Gary, who, along with his
twin brother, drove their father's
68 Opel Kadett. It was metallic green,
and we called it Percival Pickle.
It looked a bit like the Oscar Mayer
Weinermobile, in a small pickle suit.
Sadly, Percy met a tragic end in a
head-on collision. And no, none of
his human occupants was seriously
injured. Next came Kirk, an odd, free-spirit,
surfer-type who drove a 65 LeMans.
The car was an automatic, and had
some sort of dreadful transmission
problem whereby the differential would
hit the frame of the car while going
over bumps. Because of this, I had
to ride on the extreme right of the
passenger's seat, or the tranny would
thump against the frame.
Kirk was forever trying to get Dad
to help him fix this, and Dad (as
you might expect) could not have been
more uninterested in either the car
OR Kirk. After Kirk, there was Dennis,
an older man who, when I met him drove
an elderly Austin America. I liked
Dennis, but thought the car was worse
even than a Pinto. Fortunately, Dennis
came to his sense and shortly after
I met him bought an original 1938
Chevy sedan, from the original owner.
This car still had the original mohair
upholstery, and was FUN. Right before
I met Rob, there was Jerry, who had
a white 1970 Ford F-150 pickup. Need
I say more? I am a TRUCK Addict, and
here was the Real Thing! Besides the
obvious attraction of a full-size
pickup, Jerry was tall and had a mustache.
After that fizzled out, Vernon and
I traveled back and forth to college
every day, where I met Rob. It was
love at first sight for me: HE DROVE
A VW BUG! How could I not love this
guy? He was perfect: dark, ruggedly
good-looking, and best of all, he
had Humphrey. Hump was Rob's pale
blue (under all the bondo) 1969 Beetle.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
in the middle of all this, I had the
use of Vernon, who wasn't yet truly
mine and wasn't due to become Cool
until I was almost out of college.
Till then, he was merely old and slow,
albeit unwrecked at that point. I
wouldn't wreck him till 1974. But
even if he weren't Cool, Vern was
my soul-mate. Even then, he and I
had that special relationship we have
now. And part of fostering that relationship
was learning to drive him. Seeing
Sarah behind the wheel of the Nissan
brought it all back.
Rob can't wait till Sarah gets her
license, so she can begin driving
US around. You see, Sarah and her
younger sister, Natalie (who is 12)
are like our own kids and they frequently
go with us on trips and weekenders.
One of the best trip we took was to
the VW Classic in Irvine a couple
summers ago. There, they got their
first taste of a large-scale VW show,
and we had the fun of traveling with
two pre-teenage girls. Anyway, Rob
is really looking forward to the day
when SARAH can do the 6-hour trip
to Los Angeles while he and I while
away the hours in the back seat, playing
games and eating Reese's peanut butter
cups. But for now, Sarah is still
learning and our eagerness to be passengers
will have to wait a while. My befuddled
mind is having trouble grasping all
this, it really is, but I'm sure I'll
adjust. I just hope I can keep my
feet from stamping the floor and my
hands at my sides, not grabbing the
dash, when I ride with her. After
all, it won't be VERNON involved in