Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thrills and Zills, But No Spills

Another belly-dancer illustration. She's playing zills, little finger cymbals. She's a brush drawing using gouache, which is an opaque watercolor (though as you see, it can be thinned to transparency).

If you happened to be driving behind a small white jeep-like object Monday that sometimes crept along at 20 miles an hour, and sometimes left smoking rubber on the pavement before suddenly braking and veering onto the shoulder, I apologise with all my heart. I was learning to drive my father's car, a 1988 manual-transmission Suzuki Samurai sometimes known as the Kamakazi, sometimes as the Ice Cream truck. You might have seen me and Roy, my mother's hapless handyman pressed into service as a driving instructor, with our mouths open in perfect O's. He's very nice, and only screams when he can't stop himself.

For only my second time behind the wheel since I was sixteen, I thought I did relatively well, particularly when that wide road through the quiet suburb narrowed and began to wind up that hillside, separated from the precipitous drop only by a slender wire fence and the unsure touch on the wheel of my soft, nerveless hands.

Like the girl in the Red Shoes, I found that I had to keep going because I couldn't stop. Did I have to shift down through all the gears to first before we stopped? If I braked to turn while in a higher gear, would the car stall?

I couldn't ask Roy, because forming words with my mouth and vocalizing them was too demanding to do and still keep the car on the road. So we followed the exact same route I had taken as a teenager many years ago, when I stole my parents' car. Well, I didn't think of it as "stole."

I borrowed it. Without their knowledge. Having only a learner's permit.

I did bring it back. They'd never have known, if it weren't for the support post I bashed backing out of the garage. That's backing OUT of the garage. You'd think I'd have called off the whole snakebit enterprise after that, wouldn't you? But I figured I had already gotten myself into irretrievably hopeless trouble, so I might as well have the adventure I was inevitably going to pay for. Therefor I headed out of town in another of my father's beloved dangerously tiny Japanese cars, this one a Honda coupe so small it could be picked up by four college students and carried around a parking lot, which of course we know because whenever we parked at a college it was.

Now I know why I took that route: no turns, no stops. A back road, woods, no traffic, no neighborhoods, no kids on bikes. It was a giant loop, so I didn't even have to turn around, and I made it home alive. Which I rather regretted for a while after my parents came home to their bashed-in garage. Instead of suggesting I practice backing up, they grounded me until I was thirty. They should have made me pay for the garage repairs, but under the blood/turnip rule, I was excused.

I never did anything that flagrantly dangerous, illegal and fun again. I never drove again, either. By the time my grounding was over, my driving chops were cold, and the lessons I'd had with Mr Singh (who was moonlighting from his job at yes, Sing-Sing) were long forgotten. I resumed being a non-driver. Then I resumed being a New Yorker (I was removed without my permission when I was nine months old, but I always knew I'd be back), and never felt the need to drive again, not until my father died.

1 comment:

  1. What a harrowing ordeal, Mrs. P. Please post further episodes of your driving adventures. I have greatly enjoyed the couple of hours I have spent reading your blog. I am bookmarking your site for further perusal, but I can't guarantee that I will really be back, since I have a wildly fluctuating attention span. Also, the Mac needs repair. If you should wish to e-mail me (for instance, to alert me that you have resumed blogging) my email is Thanks for an enjoyable interlude, and keep the faith.