Yay! It’s finally spring. And then it’s winter again. And then spring! And then winter again. And then. …
But the good news is, each dump of a surprise spring snow storm inches us (centimetres us?) closer and closer to Real Spring. Real Spring, when it really is spring, that handful of robin-singing, flower-blooming, sun shiny days that appear just in time for our two and a half weeks of wonderful summer. Before early fall falls and it’s back to surprise snow storms again.
And this time of year, in addition to the happy birdies, buds and sunny blue-sky days, here in the Land of Alberta particularly, we Alta dwellers get to enjoy the wonders of muddy puddles, slushy sidewalks, snow-mouldy lawns and air-born allergy-inducing particulates. Which makes me think about cars.
The muddy puddle part, I mean. All those juicy mud puddle pools of potential out there on our streets remind me vividly of one infamous spring involving cars.
The 1958 Ford was my Mom and Dad’s, and therefore, as a typical 16-year-old type teenager progeny, I personally considered it my own personal car.
I have many times yammered about the three-on-the tree, brown and white buggy with a 292 under the hood and an apple box on the front bench seat. Me being a certified shrimp in those days. In fact, my driver’s license, when I finally got it said: Gender: Yes. Hair: Long. Height: four-foot-10-inches. Weight: 85 pounds.
I kid you not about that last part; when I went to take my AMA driving lessons many muddy springtimes ago, the instructor almost wouldn’t let me in the car. He thought I was in Grade 3.
But when he finally did let me climb up into the driver’s seat of this foreign car — it was a Dodge of some kind (which was pretty foreign if you were a Ford guy) — the first thing I noticed was that this AMA driver training car had, like, five pedals on the floor boards. This was new to me.
I thought I knew a lot about cars but the fact that my side had the expected three pedals — gas, brake and clutch — and his side also had a brake and a clutch pedal amused me to no end.
I knew right away what they were there for, of course. They were so the instructor could slam on the brakes or jam the clutch at random times during training so as to confuse the trainee driver.
I chuckled about the goofy looking pedals on his side, attempting to lighten things up a little by asking where his steering wheel was.
That was met with a stony look and an uneasy silence. He also wrote something on a sheet of paper on his big clipboard.
But there was one thing seriously wrong with that Dodge. It had some sort of magnetic or possibly supernatural attachment to mud puddles. The thing couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t avoid any living mud puddle. Any shape, size or depth — it didn’t matter. At least when I was driving.
That big grey boat with the five pedals and the shrimp’s forehead barely visible over the steering wheel took to the street ponds like a duck to a pond pond.
In fact, during one of my first lessons the springtime streets were practically drowning in mud puddles, some the size of Pine Lake. I was driving down 47th street, the driving instructor’s two feet hovering over his pedals, when I spotted a young lady on the sidewalk on my side of the car. She was about my age and had nice long hair and I was momentarily so distracted that I failed to notice the other young lady, a much much older young lady probably in her 30s on the right hand side of the street. Where the nice big puddles were.
The driving instructor yells something at me and KAAA-WHHHOOOOSSSHHH! I roar right through a fairly large mud puddle, the older young lady disappearing in a Dodge-induced tsunami of epic proportions.
This is a true story.
The car lurches to a sudden halt on account of the driving instructor has slammed on his personal brake pedal, nearly breaking my nose on the steering wheel, and he isn’t very happy. Neither is the lady, I’m guessing.
I feel really bad, of course, and I try to make a few excuses like I was temporary blinded by the reflection in the puddle or that it was the car’s fault because it was a magnetic Dodge. But the instructor made me get out of the car and march over and apologize to the lady and make sure she wasn’t going to sue the AMA.
So I slumped over and apologized and it turned out that she didn’t look like a drowned water rat, only a somewhat wet water rat, and she was surprisingly good about the whole thing. It being a nice sunny spring day and all.
The young lady on the other side of the street appeared to be snickering at me when I got back into the car, so I decided right then and there not to wave or smile or ask her out.
Thing is, I wanted my driver’s licence more than just about anything in the world and for the rest of the lessons, I had learned my lesson and fought that magnetic Dodge around every single puddle.
And when it came time to take my driver’s test in the ’58 Ford, I made sure it was a day without puddles and I kept my eyes peeled for pedestrians.
And then I failed the test. I couldn’t parallel park to save my soul.
I blame it on the Ford. Those things hate going backwards.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.