Third Time’s a Clutch
by Kitty Bowerman

Three men have tried to teach me how to drive stick shift, but only one bordered on success. The order and timing of driving movements were (and still are) hopelessly foreign to me.

The first teacher was my father, whose hope for me to drive a stick faded as quickly as his hope that I could throw a proper curveball. He eventually quit, probably to salvage the transmission of his 1972 Volvo hatchback. My mother said it was important for me to learn, but I think she only wanted me to destroy that old car once and for all.

The second was a high school boyfriend, who adored me more than his Mitsubishi Montero of indeterminate age. I would make it lurch and crawl and eventually stall in empty parking lots all over town. He too quit his endeavor and was content to gaze into my young brown eyes. Since his parents were divorced, my mother distrusted him and declared that it was no longer important for me to learn.

The third and final effort came from my husband in 2001. He insisted I learn to drive his Honda Prelude, in case of an emergency. My mother agreed, reasoning that if I couldn’t drive him to the hospital and he died, his mother would always hate me.

When I was finally road-ready, I drove exactly one mile until I stalled at the entrance of our neighborhood. I yanked the parking brake triumphantly and walked home! Years later, we vacationed in Italy and rented a manual transmission car called a Lancia. He never asked me to drive on Italy’s hectic, hilly roads, but I like to think that if he needed to go to the hospital, I could.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is exactly what my father’s 1972 Volvo looked like, although this one belongs to someone else. We called it “Old Blue.” It was the first car I learned stick from.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My memories are my stories. Without them, I’d have shamefully little to write.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kitty Bowerman lives in California and is a member of the Third Street Writers in Laguna Beach. Her most recent essay appears in the anthology A Galaxy Far Far Away by Golden Fleece Press.