I still don’t know how to drive a Standard. I started learning over a year ago, but sporadic practice + all the upheaval that a baby brings to life = I haven’t figured this thing out. I am usually a quick learner, but not at all with the stick shift. Sigh.

Ramadan is back, and with it are the empty roads of iftar. Tonight we went driving, but this time we added a new challenge to spice things up: a screaming baby. She’s been on boats, taxis, buses, and cars, but Bean apparently knew that this was the most thrilling transportation ride she’s seen yet. I won’t bore you with all of the heart-stopping and engine-stalling details. Instead I shall just give you a snapshot of the finale:

I agreed to drive to Burger King where a tempting chocolate sundae was to be my reward for not hitting cars, pedestrians, or curbs. We were almost there. I had only stalled about 15 times. I was waiting at the final light to turn in. There were cars piled up behind me. Then, the light turned green.

And I stalled again.

In my panic to hit the hazards, turn off the lights, and restart the engine (while my daughter was crying & my hub was trying to give me instructions), I upset the delicate balance between clutch and accelerator. The car jumped forward with a lurch and died again. Once more I tried. This time I managed to rock the car backwards and tap the bumper of the car behind me. By this point, other cars were honking, the light was about to turn yellow, and my level of stress and hysteria was rising almost as high as the pitch of Bean’s screams. I tried once more and the car squealed ahead. I gunned it through the intersection. Ahead of me were some pedestrians. There was no way I could stop for them – I might not get the car started again. Thank goodness they heard my tires squealing and they moved out of the way. I would have hated to lose my Sundae for hitting a pedestrian in the Burger King parking lot.

Once we were safely in the lot, I parked. I didn’t pull up close by the door. I parked way out in nowhereland. I wasn’t going to get close to anyone else. My hub, trying to help me practice more, suggested that I pull forward to the next row of parking spaces. I said, “Ok, but that’s it.” Three stalls later, I was there. “One more row,” he gently said. “Fine, but that’s the last one.” Two stalls later, I made it. “Just one more,” he said. “Ok, but that’s IT. No more. I’ll stop there.” Four stalls later, he got out of the car. Indignant, I told him that I was capable of doing it and wasn’t going to turn over the wheel out of failure. He opened the driver’s side door and looked down at my feet. “Ok, go. I’ll watch your feet working the pedals. Maybe we can figure out what you’re doing wrong,” he said. I cranked the car, put it in gear, and peeled out. The car door slammed, and I shot forward through the parking lot, laughing hysterically all the while. The hub started running after me, trying to catch up to the careening car with his crazy wife and tiny daughter inside. (Don’t worry, Mama. I’m exaggerating for effect. Beanie was 100% fine all the time. In fact, she wasn’t even in the car. She was, um, with our friends. Yeah. With our friends. And I wasn’t really driving. I was, um, walking. We were walking. I made everything else up. Yeah, that’s it. I made it up.)

I pulled into my finally final parking space, hit the brakes, and pulled the emergency brake. “I’m done! Gimme my sundae!” I yelled as I opened the door. One aisle over a couple stood by their car, laughing at me. I hope they tell their family and neighbors and co-workers: Stay off the road during iftar…. mab is learning to drive!

Sadly, I don’t have much hope that I’ll ever get this down. I mean, I’ve been “learning” for over a year. Sure, if I practiced more often, I might get the hang of it. Still, I have a feeling that 5 years from now my faithful readers will find a post entitled: “Standard Transmissions: mab’s Bane.”