Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Learning how NOT TO DRIVE

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I learned to drive when I was 14. It was a confusing experience, since I had two different driving teachers.

My Dad would take me out for a driving lesson and would tell me to speed up, because I was driving too slow.

Maybe the old truck did seem to crawl down the gravel road that snaked around Bissett. Driving Miss Daisy had nothing on me. But, hey, I needed to concentrate and I didn't want to end up in the ditch.

My Mom was the complete opposite. She'd scream if the needle rose higher than 30 km/h, which would startle me and make me swerve, again.

So, she'd yell again.

"Slow down!"

Luckily, the town only had about 100 residents back then, so I wasn't much of a risk to pedestrians.

The driving lessons sent mixed messages and seemed more trouble than they were worth. I started pleading off whenever I could.

What was the point of learning to drive? I was just a kid with no means to buy a car.

Besides, I didn't like to drive. That is, until I realized it might be more fun to drive alone; or at least with my friend, Roger.

One day my parents went visiting in Manigotagan, Roger and I were hanging around. There wasn't enough snow to drive the old snowmobile.

"Let's go for a ride in the truck," I suggested coolly, trying to appear semi-worldly. I was, after all, a year or two older than Roger.

Roger's green eyes lit up.

"Really?" he said.

"Yeah, sure. There's a spare key inside," I told him. The old truck was the backup vehicle. My Dad used it for odd jobs, to pack out moose or get loads of firewood for winter.

So, off we went cruising around the circle in the little town of Bissett. It was cold out so there wasn't a soul in sight. We were probably going 20 km/h, and the heater didn't work well, but it was fun all the same.

We were having a grand time, until the truck started to sputter. I had enough sense to pull over to the side of the road. I took a look at the gas gauge and realized we were out of gas.

Oh, no. My parents were going to kill me.

We were only a couple of hundred metres from my house so we slipped the truck into neutral and tried pushing it back onto the driveway. No luck, since we couldn't make it over a big hump in the road.

"Why don't we go siphon some gas from the van to put in the truck?" said Roger.

My parents also had a van, which needed some repair work. It sounded like a good plan, except we didn't know how to siphon gas.

We'd seen it done before, but both of us swallowed a bit of the gas before it travelled through the makeshift hose and into our jerry can. It was horrid stuff. We got sick as dogs, and my head felt like it swelled up and was stuffed with cotton.

We tried a few more times to get more gas out of the van but the hose was too short.

Finally, we'd had enough and went and poured what little gas we could get into the truck's tank. Alas, to no avail. The truck still wouldn't start.

By the time my parents got home we were still a bit woozy, but I managed to spit out a reasonable explanation without too many tears. The funny thing was, they weren't mad. In fact, I think they felt a little sorry for us. And of course, once my Dad jumped in the old truck it sprang to life instantly and he parked it back in our driveway.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2012 ??65530

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