Adventures with a Straight Stick
by Barbara Barrett
I have always driven vehicles with automatic transmissions. I never learned how to operate a manual transmission, i.e., straight stick, despite the heroic efforts of two boyfriends.
I dated a boy in high school who drove a Volkswagen bug. One night, he tried to teach me how to drive it. We found a deserted parking lot where I could “practice.” First, I had to learn how the gear shift worked as well as the clutch. What did “First” have to do with driving a car, other than maybe it’s the first gear you go into to get started? Okay, that was actually somewhat understandable, and “Second” and “Third” must have something to do with the sequential use of the other gears, but what differentiated them? Apparently you had to reach a certain speed so that something was rotating/spinning/revolving at a certain speed, and you were actually supposed to hear that transition, but it was lost on me. Thank God for Reverse. That I understood.
Even when I learned each gear, I still had to figure out how to find them, uh, shift to them. If I recall correctly now, they were arranged something like the letter “H.” Each gear was located at the top and bottom of the two vertical lines and you got to them by going up and down or up/down halfway, across the middle line and then up/down to the desired gear.
While the hands are busy moving the gear shift around that “H,” the feet had their own things to do, because there were three pedals (accelerator, brake plus the clutch) and only two feet. I sort of understood the purpose of the clutch, to release each gear so you could shift into the next. Why? No idea. But that pedal was my undoing. For some reason I have yet to fathom, a guy will only submit to hearing his baby (the car, not the girl friend) grind and moan only so many times before the lesson is over. For good. Needless to say, I had few regrets.
In college, another boyfriend, who became my future husband, drove a Corvair, another straight stick car. The same process was repeated, although I remember the gear shift being a “W” instead of an “H.” Whatever letter, the clutch was still there bedeviling me. Different car, different time, same result.
After that, I stuck strictly with automatic transmissions, until I wrote my latest release, Driven to Matrimony. My heroine, Dina Maitland, at least learned to drive a straight in high school drivers’ ed class, although since she’d been sick during those lessons, she had to learn on a simulator. She arrives in South Carolina on a busy summer holiday weekend having neglected to reserve a car and discovers the only one available is a small sports car with a manual transmission. Not the most promising start to her quest to save her mother from marrying a twenty-year-old. You can read the rest in the blurb. What fun to be able to take a less than pleasant memory from my teen years and subject my heroine to some of the same frustrations.
Dina Maitland spends almost as much time extricating her movie star mother from personal messes as she invests in her forensic accounting job. So much time, she may no longer have a job once she cleans up her mother's latest fiasco, her engagement to a twenty-something film student. Vowing it's the last time she puts herself on clean-up duty, Dina sets off for South Carolina to stop the pending nuptials, and along the way, almost literally, runs into the father of the groom.
Ben Cutler has troubles of his own with his business under attack from competitors and a government audit looming. Not one to trust women, he must team up with Dina to balance his books as well as stop the wedding.
Though unwillingly thrown together Dina and Ben are surprised to find their interest and passion for each other growing. Can they face their pasts in order to create a union of their own?
Excerpt from Driven to Matrimony...
Ben Cutler spotted the out-of-control sports car staggering for the open road as soon as he entered the parking lot. It moved in fits and starts, then seemed to gain speed as it headed directly toward him. Only quick reflexes and a last-minute dive out of the vehicle’s path saved him from an otherwise painful impact. The woman was a demon! Had she deliberately tried to mow him down?
He dismissed the notion as the car continued to swerve back and forth across the roadway only to veer off and skid down an embankment. There it came to rest, sinking into what from where he stood looked like marshland.
Had she injured herself? He broke into a fast trot and headed down the road to check. Foolish woman. Taking off like a runaway train when she obviously didn’t know the first thing about operating a stick. Just like so many so-called modern women. Independent. Know-it-all. Until they needed help, and then, no matter what a guy did, it wasn’t what they wanted.
Ben slowed his pace when she emerged from the vehicle only to step into the muddy bog. Whoa! That misstep wasn’t going to improve her mood.
He couldn’t have called it better.
She struggled to unplug one foot from the gunk. When she finally succeeded, it was unclear whether a shoe still remained or had been left behind, buried, because dark mud covered the entire appendage. In order to remove the other foot, she was forced to stick the first foot back in the muck, and this time, it seemed to sink even deeper. As she realized the depth of her predicament, her reaction transformed from surprise to dismay to anger.
He could have sworn he heard epithets not becoming a lady, but he wasn’t close enough to discern her exact words.
She appeared unharmed, though she’d probably never wear those shoes again.
He should be furious with her for leaving him behind and almost mowing him down. But despite her actions, her gyrations fascinated him as she tried to figure out the extent of the car’s troubles and how to extricate both herself and the little sports car from the quagmire. She was kind of cute trampling through the mire, tentatively lifting one foot, then the other to inspect the damage. She bent over and his breath caught. Cute became curvaceous.
She tromped back to the car, got in, and discarded her shoes, pitching them over the door to the outside with a vengeance. Nothing happened when she attempted to restart the vehicle. It wasn’t even grinding or kicking up mud. Just emitting a half-hearted gurgle. Dina leaned over the door and frowned at her slimy surroundings. Despite the sleek cut of the auburn hair that hit just above her shoulder, she looked pathetic and vulnerable.
Ah, hell, he needed to get moving. Time to put her, and the car, out of their misery. “Interesting parking technique, sinking it in the mud. Myself, I prefer the brake.”
World Wide Release
at all distributors on 1/15/14
About Barbara Barrett...
Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” Her first two books, The Sleepover Clause, Crimson Romance, and And He Cooks Too, The Wild Rose Press, were published in the past year. A third, Driven to Matrimony, TWRP, is available on Amazon for Kindle and will be released worldwide on January 15, 2014.
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