The ABc’s of Spain
November 1, 2006
Hello again! In this segment of my journals I thought I would take the liberty (no pun intended!) to tell you all about me basically having to learn how to drive all over again. Here in Europe most of the cars are manual instead of automatic. Last year while I was in Spain, I was taught how to drive a stick in one day. But that was it - I only had that one day of experience driving. But I still thought driving this year would be a piece of cake. And because we had to know how to drive stick in order to be given a car to use by the team, I was determined to re-learn how to drive. I mean I could only depend on my Hungarian teammate Ildiko to drive me to and from practice for so long. Oh was I in for a treat.
One Sunday afternoon after coming back from the beach I thought it would be a good time to start learning how to drive. In Europe it's different than being in the States - everything is closed on Sundays and hardly anyone is out. So it was a perfect time to go to an empty parking lot and learn how to drive. Ildiko went to college at South Carolina, so she speaks pretty good English, and I thought she would be the perfect teacher. WRONG. I asked her when do I change gears and she kept telling me that it's a feeling. What feeling? I certainly don't know what it feels like, I've only driven stick once! As I was trying to figure this out, I let my foot off the clutch too fast, forcing me to stall. And of course it wasn't just a normal, non-noticeable stall, but a violent stall. So violent that the car was literally rocking back and forth. To give you an idea of how badly the car was rocking, one time when I stalled my teammate Kaayla Chones was sitting in the back and hit her chin on the front seat! After stalling about 10 times in a row I thought it was time to call it quits for the day.
A few nights later I felt confident enough to try to drive again, and Ildiko was nice enough to still try to continue teaching me. Once we got started, the one out of five times I would get it somewhat right I would peel out, with a loud screeching noise that could be heard in Africa. I thought I had gotten the hang of it enough to go to the main road. I was doing well until I approached the light - let me tell you, stopping and starting again was just not my specialty! I was ok because there were no cars behind me while the light was red, but once it turned green its seemed like 20 cars magically appeared. I started to go, violent stall. I started to go, violent stall. This happened so much that the cars behind me were honking and calling me names. Then the light turned red again, so I was trying to get it going while the light was still red and then all of sudden we had a crowd. There were people in their windows cursing me out in Spanish. There was a even a homeless guy on the street trying to instruct me! I was sweating like I do during a game and then I finaly got it and peeled out as the light was on yellow.
I thought that was the worst of my problems. WRONG! To get back to my apartment I have to go up a hill. If you know anything about driving a stick, you know that driving on hills is really tough. Well this is the hill of all hills. It has a lot of turns and is pretty steep. And of course at the bottom of the hill is my arch enemy - the stop light. Everything was going smooth until the light turned red. I had cars to the left of me and behind me and I could not make it up the hill. The people behind me were getting really upset because they started honking their horn and they started to swear at me in Spanish. Needless to say, with all of the craziness I thought it would be a good idea to let Ildiko drive the rest of the way home.
Throughout the weekend I was struggling learning how to drive, until I had a conversation with a friend who knows how to drive a stick. I told her what Ildiko was teaching me, and don't you know my friend told me that Ildiko was teaching me all of the wrong things! So my friend explained everything to me, and then l caught on much quicker.
After a weekend of fustration I finally learned how to drive a manual. Now I'm a pro at it. Just watch out for those hills!
Until next time -