Manual Labor

Today, I drove all the way from Touverac to the outskirts of Barbizieux…a whopping 10 minutes drive. If that seems like an underachievement, did I mention that I am learning to drive a manual transmission? I didn’t stall once! (At least not on the trip out.) If you are still not sufficiently impressed, may I just say that I accomplished this without killing passenger (he’s very thankful), pedestrian, or beast.

I’ve driven an automatic for some 30 years of my life with nary a single speeding ticket. I’ve always been a decisive, defensive driver. Now, in France, because my husband made the mistake 7  years ago of buying a standard vehicle (without air con, I might add), this old dog is being forced to learn a new trick, and she isn’t as coordinated as she used to be. But one must face one’s fears if one wants a certain amount of eventual freedom (though a bike is looking more and more appealing).

the hand of domestic goddess

When I first got to France in May, the weather here was still quite chilly. Not having air con was no biggie. Today felt like summer, and boy, does the heat irritate the sh*% out of me.  It’s not so bad at high speeds with the windows rolled down, but when stopped, I am ready to jump out of my skin. I do not understand the necessity of baking in a little metal box. I’m such a comfort-loving American! I like my central air (and screens on the windows). Or maybe it has more to do with what working at Disneyworld as a chipmonk in 100% humidity did to my inner thermometer.

So an open-air velo would be quite nice…barring sunburn. Besides, with a car, there’s something about all the fancy footwork that throws me off. Everyone says it will become 2nd nature, but right now, if Stuart wasn’t sitting next to me saying things like, “Okay, see that sign up ahead. Get ready to go into 2nd about there,” and “Clutch! Brake! More brake!” I shudder to think what might happen.

To be fair to myself, I am making progress. I’m shifting smoother and stalling less. Today, I even managed a hill start. Okay, yes, admittedly after two tries, but the third time was the charm! I felt like Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Ben Kenobi pulls the visor of his helmet down and tells him to “use the force.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then went for it, waiting for the bonnet…ug, I mean hood…to pull up just a tad and then Vroom! Good thing there weren’t any cars coming.