I’m usually competent but periodically I do something really stupid and today was one of those days.
Earlier this year I replaced my old car which was an automatic to a new car which is a stick. I wasn’t thrilled about having to shift a car because I hadn’t driven a stick since I was about 24… and I was amazed that I still remembered. Nonetheless, its been a few months and I’m mastering the whole down-shifting aspect and I very rarely make that awful grinding noise that causes me to check my rear-view to see if I dropped my transmission in the street. Nevertheless, I do like how quickly I can get from zero to sixty when pulling on to the freeway which is a necessity where I live. Weekenders from the Minneapolis suburbs with cabins on the White Fish Chain or Cross Lake area clog the highway throughout the weekend. From where my house is located its nearly impossible to get on to the highway unless you have fully functional afterburners, but driving a stick certainly helps.
My oldest son who is 27, was with me one of those days, after I pulled on to the freeway he frowned at me, gave me a long sideways look and said monotonically, “I see you’ve gotten accustom to the new car…”. Okay, so he hates riding with me even though I have an impeccable driving record but for some reason my driving leaves him clinging to to the dome light of my interior by his fingernails. Not on purpose.)
One of the hazards of this transition from an automatic to a stick has been remembering to set the parking brake which I completely forgot to do today. I almost never blush but I did today, I may still be blushing I’m not sure. I was half way through picking up weekend groceries for a Saturday dinner party when the store manager announced the make and model of my car along with my license plate number, I of course immediately knew why. A small gathering collected awaiting my arrival at the courtesy counter and they smiled each offering a bit of the story, telling me that my car rolled to the center of the lane in the parking lot and that my car was causing a traffic jam. I smiled embarrassed and said, “have I hit anything?” and the store manager said, “No, ya haven’t.”
I can hardly describe the phemonomea that ensued, every man within a fify mile radius smiled at me, gave me a quick raise of the chin or waved. I’m sure I turned pink but resigned myself to slogging through so I imagined I was the Diary Princess or the Parking Fairy and smiled and waved back…old men, young men, guys in their cars even waved, which turned out to be a wise approach given the traffic jam I had caused, settling for being the afternoon entertainment was a far cry better than being cursed at.
All the same, the response was distinctly from males and I couldn’t help but wonder what makes utter incompetence cute? And why did my incompetent moment feel exacerbated by my 5′ tall stature and my size 4.5 shoe…I’m not sure of the last time I felt so small. I wondered if my stupidity would have been half as entertaining if I was a man or large woman. I smiled and waved but wondered if those same men would have thought it was half as cute if I was their wife… sharing their auto insurance policy. Even though I scarcely remember the brief periods I spent married, I have a sneaking hunch that neither of them would have patted my head and said, isn’t that adorable… more like, “you did what?”
I sincerely hope that the next time I am utterly incompentent, that it happens in private or among women who are more apt to sigh and roll their eyes and mutter “twit”.