“Use the clutch!” Words coming from Mr. Cato, my high school driver’s ed instructor, that still echo in my ear.
Clutch? I don’t see no stinkin’ clutch! Which is probably why the “training” car with the manual (on the steering column back then) transmission died halfway up the steep Southern Indiana hill. (In case you’re unfamiliar with the terrain, the southern part of the state is known for rolling hills and deep valleys.)
“Put on the brake,” he said, through clenched teeth. (Mr. Cato had virtues. Patience was not one of them)
Note 1: He was also the varsity basketball coach, known for ripping off his sports jacket and hurling it to the sidelines within 10 seconds of the start of the game.
“Now, ease out on the clutch as you push down on the gas pedal.”
Clunk! Clunk! Sputter! Sputter…die….
(Sigh) “Put on the brake…again. Ease up on the clutch and give the car some GAS!!”
“Yes sir.” I gulp, glancing sideways toward the passenger seat. Whew. Mr Cato is in a short sleeve shirt. No jacket to hurl at me.
Meanwhile, Jimmy, Pat and Crissy were in the back seat, laughing hysterically…which wasn’t helping my concentration. I shot them a dirty look, which brought on more laughter and a couple of snorts.
Finally! I made it up that hill, only to encounter another steeper climb on the other side. I exhaled. Can I possibly make it up a second hill? But, then it came to me. More speed! No need to use the clutch. This driving thing won’t get the best of me!
I floored it! Up that hill, down another and up the next. Yep, I’m getting the hang of this.
Mr. Cato’s death grip on the dash and silence from the back seat, said it all. I passed Driver’s Ed, probably because of my instructor’s reluctance to see me back in the driver’s seat.
Note 2: Don’t try this at home! Back in my day, the roads were practically empty and we had all the real estate in two counties to practice our driving skills. And, in case you’re interested, here’s a picture of my first car! In black and white because we didn’t take color Polaroids in the “olden days.” F-85, red and white Oldsmobile with red bucket seats, no seat belts, and the best of all…