The First Time I Drove

The First Time I Drove

 Mr. and Mrs. Lake lived in a small house just off Kingston Road on a street that dropped downhill towards the lake. They were friends of my Mom and Dad’s—mostly my Dad’s. Mister Lake was a drinking buddy of his. He would take my sister and I along for a visit sometimes. On one of those visits I caused trouble.

The details of the incident are lost to me along with most things from those years. I believe we were looking at a car that the Lakes had just bought. I remember that the passenger door was open. My sister was sitting in the front seat next to me. I stood in the driver’s seat pretending to steer, pulling the steering wheel back and forth, and probably making a vroom- vroom sound.

I liked playing with toy cars and trucks. This was before the toymakers added noises to their products. We had to make our own sound effects, as I was doing. My sister was just being a girl, doing girl stuff while watching her little brother. Do you remember what a gear shift was like back then?

It was mounted on the steering column. Three forwards and one reverse in the shape of an H. The emergency brake was down by the petals on the door side. It wasn’t used a lot back then. Years later there were a few accidents when people left their cars running in neutral, or later—with automatics—in park, and didn’t set the brake. The cars took off, people were killed or injured, hence the recommendation to always set the emergency brake was born, but back then most people didn’t bother. They simply left the car in gear. In reverse if the nose of the car was pointed downhill or first gear if the grade dropped off at the back. You were supposed to turn your wheels slightly towards the curve. Few people bothered with that either. Mr. Lake was one of those.

Somehow, in my driving exuberance, yanking back and forth on the wheel, I must have moved the gear shift lever. The car started to move. I was elated. I was driving. Then my sister started making demands.

 “Get out! Stop driving! Give me your hand! Reach over!” she screamed, in the time with the slap, slap, slap, sound of her shoes as she ran beside the car. We passed some parked cars, getting closer to each one. Suddenly I was wretched from my seat, as her flailing hand finally made contact with my shirt. The car left us standing in the road. It didn’t travel far after that. The crash wasn’t as loud as I thought it would be. My punishment was harsh. It was a somber drive home.