Fingers crossed, it would take a few healthy cranks to get the old Pontiac to fire up. Sometimes dad would have to prime the carburetor with a bit of gasoline for encouragement. On the center console was a sticker with a silhouette of a bull defecating and a large red slash through the center. For some reason that’s one of the things that perplexed me as a child because I didn’t quite understand the premise. When I grew up I began to appreciate how different aspects that we weren’t aware of before come into light. Growing up is an amazing experience isn’t it?
My pulse was beating out of my neck the first time I sat behind the wheel. The engine struggled as I turned the loose and cold metal key. I could vaguely see the lines in the middle of the road, peering over the steering wheel. My father sat beside me motionless, grinning from ear to ear. It starts and the car jerks into gear after depressing the button to release the shift knob. Most first times are like this, every step being a concentrated effort. Years of experience lack and therefore do not create the fluidity of motion for the daunting process of driving to take place.
A crescent wrench flies out from a pile of tools and strikes the front seat. The smile on his face disappeared quickly as I began testing the sensitivity of the brake pedal, inadvertently. A otherwise passive learning experience turns into an all out coaching on how to lightly press the brakes. As the car moves forward I become distracted by the trees and forget that I’m responsible for the vehicles direction. Our front tire hits a patch of gravel in the shoulder and the wheel jerks to the right. No intervention takes place.
Now it’s game on. Both of my knuckles turn white as I grip a strong ten-and-two to guide the vehicle to victory. I stare at the far drivers corner of our orange hood and unsuccessfully attempt to keep it on par with the yellow line in the road. My fathers hand reaches over frequently to correct it and avoid collision with speeding vehicles in the opposite lane. It took me a while to understand through practice that by looking where I wanted the car to go rather than where it was, I was able to conquer this feat. The grin was transferred to my face as I guided the vehicle more than 5-10 feet without challenging our stomachs ability to keep down our lunch. I felt free, alive and indestructible.
At the time I didn’t realize there was a bigger lesson here. That we treat our adult lives sort of like driving a car for the first time, except, we never get to the point where we stop looking at the hood and lining up the dots. Once the horizon comes into focus and we begin looking at where we’re going rather than where we are, steering just becomes natural.