Friday, August 22, 2008

The short end of the stick (shift)

I had just pulled into a Hawthorne parking lot adjacent to the Saw Mill Parkway and was getting out of my car when I heard the sound of an angry voice coming over a police loudspeaker. I looked and saw a female cop ordering someone in a BMW 3-series to pull into a space near me, and shut off the car. The driver jerk-jerk-jerked to a stop.

I parked a book on top of my roof and pretended to read while I saw a very angry cop get out of her cruiser and approach the driver of the BMW.

I couldn’t hear what was said, but whatever the driver of the BMW had done was serious enough for an extended chew-out. On and on the cop went.

I kind of like when female cops yell at me. It doesn’t happen too often, but it happens. I like to see if I can talk my way out of it. Female cops are sexy, anyway. Guns. Batons. Pony tails.

I got bored listening to this copper spew, so I went and got a cup of iced coffee before going into the gym---that’s why I was in Hawthorne. When I came out of the shop, two girls were circling the BMW, obviously rattled, and obviously the ones who’d been yelled at.

“Hey!” I called. They looked.

“What did you do make that cop yell at you like that?”

“Neither of us can drive a stick shift,” said one. “So I was practicing on a side street.”

“Nothing wrong with that. “

“Somehow we ended up on the highway, and I panicked.”


“I kept stalling out. So finally we just parked with the flashers on, and called 911---on ourselves.”

“So the cop showed up and was pissed off?”

“Yes, and we didn’t even DO anything.”

There ought to be different-colored belts for drivers, parents, musicians and writers, just like in Karate.

And another belt for "I'm on a highway and I can't drive a stick."

My vegan heart went out to this young lady, however, both for her pluck and her willingness to talk to a stranger. I told her what I did for a living, that I'd driven her car and that BMW's aren't always easy---their clutch-shift-accelerator combinations are tight tight, making them one of the easiest cars to stall, and it happens even to an expert like me.

(The easiest cars I've ever shifted? Saturns and Volkswagens.)

I told her, also, that many times when I get a new motorcycle, the first journey is the most harrowing. I always make a point of going somewhere, getting off the bike, leaving it for a bit while I wander or shop or such. When I get on the second time, it's always easier. The body says, "Ah, this again. Ok, I've been here."

"You'll be fine. Just relax."

She thanked me with a big smile and I went upstairs to the gym. When I looked out the window ten minutes later, her car was gone.


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