Thursday, April 21, 2011
I've had my share of wipe outs. I've hit my head on a lot of things. I've fallen in very creative and unfortunate ways. Three times I've been in car accidents where the vehicle was written off. I have scars on my body that have no known cause. I have scars with known cause, but the explanation makes no sense.

And yet very few major injuries.

No concussions.*

No severed appendages.

Very few broken bones.

No whiplash.

It amazes me that those last four lines are true. I don't know how I've made it this far without having spent more time in the hospital. This is especially true of those days when I was learning to drive a whole new class of vehicles that you can't just "shift" into drive.

Learning to drive standard was a lot of fun, but it rattled my brain around something fierce. Some youth would ask to go for a ride in the Eurovan, while I was mastering the nuances of a clutch, because it was the closest thing to a carnival ride in our town. Perhaps I should have charged admission, or at least enough to cover the gas, but I was driving anyway.

The day after I bought the van I wanted to drive it to church. But I was nervous. I didn't want to stall in front of everyone in the parking lot. At the grocery store everyone was anonymous. On the highway it didn't matter I'd never see them again. But at church, I knew these people and they knew me. I was hoping to spare myself some embarrassment.

So I practiced.

In the driveway.

Back and forth. Back and forth: wearing ruts in the dirt and taking years of life off the clutch.

My parents driveway isn't long, but long enough to get comfortably in first gear before slamming on the breaks. Then I'd throw it into reverse and find my way, literally, backwards to the start. I'm sure I put a good twelve kilometers** on the odometer.

For 45 minutes or so I was working at this trying to get to the point where I could roll through the church parking lot smoothly. I din't care so much what happened on the open road, but I wanted everything to be elegant in that parking lot.

Clutch in. Clutch out. Clutch in. Clutch out. Clutch in. Clutch out.

The van lurching, rolling, stuttering, jerking every which way. And my head right along with it. Now, my cranium has impressive girth. So there is considerable mass sitting atop my neck. And numerous laws of physics at play. Adding to that, my hair was much longer at the time--carrying momentum, and adding effect if nothing else.  Yes, my hair was whipping back and forth.  It's a wonder I didn't sustain any injury as I was bouncing around.  This was what I imagined riding a mechanical bull to be like. The Eurovan was my giant, blue, made in Germany, mechanical bull.

After all that it was time to leave for church. It was time to see what the outcomes of my practicing would be.

It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't smooth.

You'd think I hadn't practiced at all. I guess that's the outcome of never getting to second gear.

I was in the wrong gear as I attempted to hop the curb into the parking lot.*** The van then, mostly because of the wrong gear thing, began to shake violently and I was certain and explosion was immanent.

Fortunately, no explosion.

But there was a whole lot of head turning.

Eventually my driving skills improved. The headaches went away.  I rarely turn heads in a parking lot anymore.

*at least not that I know of

**I'm sure it was more like .12 but much of my memory may have been skewed by rattling.

***The entry into that church's parking lot is like the entry into any parking lot, in that if travelling the right speed you barely notice the bump. However, if you're not travelling the right speed, let's say because you're in the wrong gear and made poor estimations of how much time your much-heavier-than-you're-used-to vehicle needs to slow down, you may in fact find that "small barely noticeable bump" have an affect on the van much like a mogul would on a downhill skier. The van never went air born, but it certainly hopped.