Challenges – Stick Shift

We all try and have as much patience as we can, it’s human nature for those of us that actually care. It’s something that we try and instill in our children at very early ages, and we hope that they carry that lesson with them their entire lives. Fundamentally, I believe we never truly stop learning, no matter what age we are, we will continue to learn until the day we die. There are two specific instances of using patience on my part, and overcoming challenges as an adult on my wife’s behalf. Both of these stories revolve around one, teaching my wife at forty years old how to drive a stick shift, and two, at fifty years old, learning to swim.    The first, learning to drive a stick shift, was an absolute necessity at the time. For reasons beyond our control (Yea, Right!) the two of us found ourselves with only one vehicle. This vehicle we were using between us was a small 1989 GMC pick up truck. At the time of this story, it was actually only a couple of years old. The only problem was that it had a manual transmission. It was a five speed stick shift that for me was no problem. Unfortunately for my wife, it proved to be quite the challenge. For whatever reason, she had never learned how to drive a stick shift. Well, at this point, we found ourselves in a bit of a mess. I didn’t need the truck for work, luckily, I was Harry Connick Jr.’s Stage Manager at the time. I flew in and out of Louisville and would meet the tour bus in the city of the first show of the tour. Then on the last city of that particular tour, fly back home to Louisville. All she had to do was get me to and from the airport. BTW, at this point, some of you may be asking, “Why didn’t you just buy another vehicle?” Ah, a question asked by so many Americans who are so proud of their $250,000 debt, and their forty thousand dollar annual incomes. The simple answer for me was, “We didn’t need another vehicle, we needed Brenda to learn how to drive a stick shift.” A.K.A. – Rock is an asshole! Lol.

So, with learning to drive a stick shift heavily on our minds, we headed to the nearest empty parking lot. I’d be lying if I said everything went smoothly, but faced with the fact that she had no other choice than to learn, she started driving a stick shift. It’s funny, the first few times she drove to work, I sat beside her for support. However, I soon noticed that she was taking the “long” way to work. As I thought about it, I put two and two together. The “short” path to her work also included a challenging hill at the top of which sat a stoplight. Now, someone with little or no experience with a manual transmission automobile might find this situation a bit difficult. If not damned hard. So with that in mind, the next trip to work proved to be quite interesting, then, quite fruitful.    As we were pulling pout of our driveway, and she started once again to take the “long” path to work, I spoke up. “Honey, lets go the other way, I need some cigarettes.” (Yes, you have to BE a dumb-ass in order to recognize a dumb-ass.) Her startled, and somewhat frantic response was “Just get them on your way home, you don’t need those things anyway.” My response, ” I haven’t had one in a while honey, what’s the big deal?” (of course, already knowing the big deal) She looked at me, swallowed hard, and said “All right, if you have to have one of those things SOOO bad!” I later did quit, but that’s a different story for a different day. So, begrudgingly and somewhat nervously, we headed to the “Hill”.

As we headed down the “short path” to her work I could tell she was getting uncomfortable. Those of you who know me, know that I took no pleasure in any discomfort that my wife ever had to endure, and take my word for it, she had more than her fair share. I did however, realize that achieving goals in this life sometimes required “Discomfort”. As we approached “The Hill” and the light, it turned red. Just what one of us was hoping would happen. All of a sudden my beautiful, confident, self assured wife became a confused mass of arm waving, screaming, pandemonium.


As the truck stalled out we began to roll backward. Thank the Lord, no one was behind us. (I was watching.) That simple fact however didn’t calm my wife in the least bit. As the rolling down the hill, and the screaming, continued. In as calm and reassuring voice that I could muster I said “Honey, put your foot on the brake.” I repeated that mantra to her as calmly as I could until she eventually complied.        After calming down, we eventually got her confidence level back to where it needed to be. She drove that truck from 1990 until 1996. Never an accident, never a problem. But what was most important to me, and I think to her was one simple fact. She never ran away from a challenge again, ever.