So after the mini-cooper fiasco it would be another 5 or so years before I touched a manual joystick again.
I do not recall whether we were dating or just about to be dating or really totally dating but not admitting it at the time, but my now-husband-person, Mark, decided I should learn to drive stick. So we went out in the pirate mobile, to another church parking lot and went around and around and around. I learned a couple tricks and he explained to me in helpful detail what the engine was doing when I put the clutch in and let it out and shifted the gears and all of that. Understanding what was happening made it a teensy bit easier. Teeny tiny bit.
But I refused to drive on the road.
The next time, Mark and I were at a pool party having a grand old time when for one reason or another something needed to be retrieved from his house. One of the reasons I married this kid, he makes me do the things I need to but desperately do not want to do. So he persuaded me to take his VW (stick-shift, of course) and go get the...stuff.
Cursing his name the whole way, I made it well enough back to his house without killing the engine. (Or any of the children gallivanting through the streets seeing as school had just been let out.) I also took all the backstreets rather than facing a streetlight and actual speed limits over 15.
I grabbed the ______ and got back out to the car, still breathing like a yoga master trying to focus my panic but feeling a little more confident from my previous accident free adventure.
But then I had to back the car out of the driveway.
And the joystick no longer had a sticker telling you which gears were where.
But! I knew that in my Dad's car, R had been where a "6th" gear would be. So I tried that.
There was no 6th slot.
I sat there and stared at the joystick. Willing my brain to have a stroke of genius and magically know where reverse was. I couldn't fathom a clue.
Soooo to avoid gashing a dent in my pride, I took out the parking brake, opened my door and used my foot to propel myself and the 2 ton car backwards.
But then I swung into the gutter rut and was helpless.
So luckily I had my cell phone and called Mark.
"HOooooow do you reverse in this stupid thing??!"
"Oh, right. That's kinda tricky..."
"Mm, of course. Thanks for that."
"You push the joystick down and pull all the way to the left and up."
You push the thing DOWN?? That's a real thing?
It was seriously NASA space ship talk to me.
But it worked, he was right. Although I got myself stuck in the middle of the road.
I got back to the party soundly, but even further buried in my loathing of manuals.