Monday, June 13, 2011

Mandarin Clutch

We embarked into learning the Mandarin language while in the USA. Our instructor, Eva Cole, was very patient with us and we learned some words and phrases over several hours of instruction.   
But as the pressure of moving increased, our dedication to our lessons decreased.  It was a good introduction to the sounds and the culture and has served us well. It's time to get more serious. We begin phase two of our Mandarin lessons this week.   An instructor will come to our home twice a week for a two-hour combined lesson.  The two of us and our new instructor, Stefanie, will sit at our dining room table and we will immerse ourselves in more Mandarin.  My stomach does a flip everytime I think about it. I know it won't be "easy-peasy" as the kids say, of course, but my concern is over having my husband alongside of me while I try to learn something new and difficult.

 HISTORY:  The Spring after I turned 40 we leased a cute little white FORD Escort GT sporting a spoiler and a manual transmission. I definitely did not want a manual transmission as I had never operated a car with one but my dh* said, "No problem, I've taught several people how to drive a stick-shift, you CAN do this, Carol, and I will teach you.  Besides, we can save $15 per month on the lease."   The Big Guy is a very patient man and an excellent instructor. He had been a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan. Heck, he taught eight squirrely 8-year old cub scouts all sorts of things as they ran around the house bopping each other with whatever pointy objects they could find. So he'd earned his credentials.  He had a long list of those he successfully taught this same skill. However, I am very impatient with myself when learning something new....childlike almost.  But I was determined to conquer that clutch and  have a more affordable car payment, and a moon roof!  Add to that the need to prove that a bright 40-year old wasn't "over the hill" as all the black balloons and birthday cards had so eagerly pointed out a few months prior.  Off we went to Madonna University's empty parking lot with our 8-year old son "chatting it up" in the back seat.  Now I am not Roman Catholic but that day it didn't hurt to have "Hail Mary, Mother of God..." with me, believe me.

Instruction from a good teacher begins with the understanding of where the pupil "is at," so they know where to begin teaching. The Big Guy began likening a manual transmission to the gears on a 3-speed bicycle and explained  what a clutch would do to get from gear to gear,blah...blah...blah.  I shook my head up and down. Our tow-headed future driver leaned forward to increase his own background knowledge. He reminded us that in only 8 years he would be behind the wheel. Oy. So, a switch from passenger to driver's seat had me fully determined and focused. And then the fun began! 

 "One foot on the clutch, one foot on the brake...ease off ever so slightly...and accelerate," he
 "Ka-Booonk!," and the car stalled. 
 Try again. 
 "Ka-Blam!" and so forth and so on ad nauseum.
 My left calf was not used to this work out at all.  
 Sadly,I'd not gotten very far in the expansive empty lot.
The security guard stopped his vehicle to watch the show. I swear he was eating a balogna sandwich and sipping a Mountain Dew.

My face-reddened, my frustration increased, I wanted to cry and bolt and die all at the same time.  Our son who giggled the first few times I stalled the car suddenly became as quiet as a mouse. The tension was that thick.  He moved from a leaning-in center position to near-cowering behind my seat, watching his very patient father in action.  (Smart move, kiddo.)

My progress was S L O W and at one of my worst parenting moments I screamed "Why in the #%^&* would ANYONE want to DRIVE like THIS - What's the POINT?"  After an hour of tremendous trials and torture, lesson one was over. Thank Goodness! - (this is when I thanked the Mother of Jesus, by the way.)   Lesson two was better and each morning I'd wake up, look out at the gleaming oxford white car and take on the challenge to get from point A to point B with less stalling and more forwarding.  I schemed ahead to avoid traffic lights and any semi-uphill terrain. Center Street at Main Street was the worst. But I did learn to drive my little FORD Escort GT with its manual transmission and moon roof. Thank-you, Big Guy...

 These lessons we will conquer together, albeit at differing speeds. We will be similarly perplexed but just as challenged.  We'll learn "Survival Mandarin" with Stefanie - Jiao You!  Undeniably, I've matured since age 40 and we have oh so many subsequent years of connubial bliss under our expanding waistbands, so this should be "easy-peasy," right?  But just in case I'll take a heavy dose of Good Fortune and down shift  into Good Luck and Happiness as I ascend this Mandarin mountain.  I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading,

Cricket                                  *dh - dear husband


Corrine said...

Gotcha beat on the uphill with a stick shift. Grandriver and Halstead. Just south of the Roller Rink across from Jonna's market. Sat through 3 lights with a brand new shiny corvette right behind me in my 3 speed stick shift blue gremlin until he pulled around me and then ever so lightly I rolled back and then went forward and still went through the light when it was RED!
Thanks for the memories Carol enjoying your comments!

Sandy said...

Gordon taught me to drive a stick shift, also! He did a good job, but I was worried about hills and Jim assured me that there were no hills on my route to work. Well, he was wrong. There was a hill, I stalled, and backed into the car behind me! No real damage but to this day, when I drive a stick shift, I always put my foot on the brake when stopped on a hill and only release it verrrrry slowly as I engage the clutch.
Love your posts! Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

You're writing a wonderful book of memories! - Marilyn

lmarcus said...

suggestion from the good little Catholic girl ... maybe you need the whole "JMJ" ... "Jesus, Mary and Joseph"

Becca said...

Oh boy, do I get this! I've never learned to drive a stick shift either (somehow, Mandarin actually seems easier!)..and it's mostly because I've been afraid of my prospective teacher! I'm glad you had the persistence to stick with it - maybe someday I will too! We still have that really pretty red sports car in the garage in Florida that I can't drive!!

But I bet you'll do just fine with the Mandarin. This time it's your turn to take the lead away from the Big Guy and be the expert first :)

Musicalspirit said...

I laughed, I laugh-cried and joyfully reminisced of my own experience in learning to drive a stick shift. I began my learning practicing the shift patterns on my dad's old Plymouth, all the while coordinating the dance with the clutch and gas pedal. (I'm pretty sure Uncle Gordon advised me on the foot action.) I finished my learning by teaching myself out in the "real world". What a nightmare that was, but it forced me to master it very quickly. I still drive a stick shift to this day.

I am loving your posts, Aunt Carol. You are a very talented writer. And I have no doubt that you will do very well learning Mandarin.

Love to you and Uncle Gordon.

Donna Lynn