When you get the VW Eos, a shiny stick-shift convertible, you will want to drive it fast. (I’ve ridden with Sarah before. She means 45 mph.) This will be a problem, however, if you don’t know how to drive a stick shift. Last night my friend Peter (dashingly handsome), who requested he be described as “dashingly handsome” (thank you), took me out to a less populated part of Brooklyn (where there aren’t many cars—and, just as important, where I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew) and tried to teach me how to drive it.
I was hoping for wind in the hair glamour. What I got was bucking, lurching, and squealing (the squealing came from Sarah) through a grocery store parking lot. We’d tried to start the lesson in the slightly more glam Ikea parking lot, but got chased out by security guards (armed with hogbö, Ikea’s new $3 police batons—some assembly required). Theoretically, I got the gist of what I was supposed to do—release the clutch while giving it gas—but in practice, getting that timing right was like trying to coordinate simultaneous orgasms. (Both people are supposed to have orgasms?)
I was better than I thought I’d be, though (me, too). In the first half hour, my stall rate was probably 30 percent. Once Peter said that giving it too much gas and screeching was better than not enough gas and bucking to a stall (tires are easier to replace than an engine), I got much better—“better” meaning I peeled out like some show-off 16-year-old at every intersection. It was especially embarrassing when I stalled twice in quick succession in front of a group of young guys, who were drinking beer on the stoop and started hollering at me, cheering me on (those were cheers?)—all the motivation I needed to screech out of there. I will never step foot on Sullivan Street again. (On behalf of the residents of Sullivan Street, we thank you.)
And then there was that time when, trying to accelerate from a stop sign, I accidentally put the car in third gear instead of first, which sent us rocking a few feet into the intersection before cutting out completely. Then there was the time I did that again. And the time I went from second back into first, when I really meant to put it in third, which made the Eos grumble like it was choking on gravel (that one was me). At a four-way stop, I had to yell over the windshield to a biker who kept waving for me to go first that he should actually go because “I have no idea how to drive this thing.” (You’d think word would have gotten around by this point.)
But when I was frustrated, I laughed (much better than how she normally deals with frustration, which often involves kicking). When I accelerated enough to make our heads whip back against the seats, I laughed, though Peter did not. (Severe neck trauma is only funny when it’s happening to someone else.) Even when I was terrible at it, I was having a good time (me, too, somehow). And seeing myself get tangibly better—after two hours, my stall rate dropped to 10 percent—was gratifying in a way that’s different than, say, making progress at work or at home. In both those cases I don’t ever feel like I see results that instantly. (I don’t know what she’s talking about. Plenty of her projects have had instant results. Like when she got a spray tan.)
Now that I can, for the most part (key phrase), drive this thing, stay tuned for a specific, practical review of the Eos—including my attempts to program the GPS. (And to be safe, stay off the roads for the rest of the week, until she has to return the car.)