TOUGH LITTLE LADY
In 1960 I drove an Italian motorscooter across much of the US. Some 55 years later, in 2015 I wrote of that crazy journey in “Scoot Across the USA”, a book published this year, 2016. The final sentence of that story says “… and I returned by auto (driving a Nash Rambler Station Wagon pulling a trailer with the scooter aboard) … in time for an exciting monsoon season in the blazing desert of Southern Arizona.”
My daughter, Teresa Rosano, after reading the finish of my scooter tale, asked if that was the same Nash Rambler Station Wagon that she had used in learning to drive a car. Yes, it was. It had been kept in the family, waiting for her, for 27 years.
First, a brief description of that vehicle … a full-size, practical, sturdy, very basic auto, with no accessories other than a heater. It had a manual 3-speed transmission with shifter on the steering column, no power steering, and no power brakes. A heavy foot was needed to operate the clutch and brake pedals. At slow speed, anyone less beefy than a professional wrestler would have a task moving the steering wheel enough to effectively guide the car on any intended path. It handled as easily as any ordinary two-ton dump truck.
Now, a brief description of Teresa. My daughter was and is intelligent, pretty, athletic, and rather small of stature, weighing 96 pounds (44 kilos). This was 1987. She would be able to drive legally in a few months. Time for her to learn to drive. Time for me to do the teaching.
Sitting at the steering wheel of the Nash, I explained the pedal functions and gear shifting. Teresa immediately grasped the concept of power vs. speed as it was involved with shifting of the transmission and understood the function of the clutch which smooths the transition from one gear to the next. Smart cookie, this kid of mine. I probably demonstrated briefly all these simultaneous actions (steering, shifting, clutching, and gas pedaling) by driving a short distance along our rough desert dirt road/driveway.
With Teresa now behind the wheel, the engine at idle, the car aimed at a straight section of our road, it was the time to operate 1st gear. She stalled the engine only once or twice and soon had us moving smoothly forward, then making the change to 2nd gear a bit too slowly, but without a glitch or grinding of gears. Excellent. The 3rd gear, the easiest gear, would have to wait until we got to a longer stretch of roadway, but 3rd gear would be a piece of cake when the time arrived. She had managed to understand and operate a manual transmission in record time (here insert a ‘pat on the back’ for her).
We toodled around in 2nd gear for a bit, stopping and starting several times to practice that 1st gear. Thinking we’d get to use 3rd gear if we drove on the quarter-mile road to where our well was located, I directed her to take that roadway. Remember, the road was primitive, the turn fairly sharp, the steering rather stiff. Suffice it to say, our progress was slowed considerably (stopped actually) almost half-way over the woodpile which would provide for heat the following winter. Our left front wheel was elevated substantially, and we listed markedly to starboard, Teresa still hanging onto the steering wheel to prevent sliding across the bench seat, while I was firmly pressed against the passenger door, laughing. After her initial shock, she joined me and we laughed as long and loud as a couple of crazies. Finally simmering down, I suggested we had to choose … either proceed forward over the woodpile (in which case we would need to use the lower 1st gear) or … we could learn a new, as yet unexplored gear called “reverse.” Reverse was the choice. She backed away, professionally, from the woodpile and got started on the road toward the well, getting the chance to use 3rd gear. Reaching the end of that road, it was reverse once more and we headed back to the house. In less than an hour, Teresa had learned to smoothly operate this tough-to-drive, manually shifted vehicle (and now a round of applause, please).
In the years between that driving lesson and my writing of this little memory, Teresa has become an architect, a university professor, a highly-respected citizen of our community, and … a 3rd degree Black Belt in Karate. See …. I told you at the beginning … this was indeed … a tough little lady. 9/30/2016 Aureleo Rosano