Lead image based upon the exquisite work of Jacob Black.
So I’m puttering along in a Honda Civic at around 30 km/h in a residential zone, hunched up against the windshield and seeing nothing but the road ahead of me, and a most miraculous thing occurs to me.
Two things actually: going at speeds that a F-150 could surpass by just putting the engine in gear is surprisingly fun (for the first 10 minutes anyway) and, my mother adhering strictly to the speed limit – I get it.
I’m not sure troubles me more: that I could be so easily pleased, or that I was identifying with my mother.
But let’s back up a bit. I’ve been an official part of the Autos.ca team since January, and I work with a group of people who are passionate about what they do. Which means that every conversation eventually turns into a discussion about cars. Prior to two weeks ago, I had never driven a car, so my contributions to these discussions have been based on spec sheets and what our writers have written – not terrible, by any means, but highly academic. Not that I didn’t want to learn to drive – I was planning to start lessons back in April, when the streets would have (in any other year) thawed out, and well, that didn’t happen.
I’d actually taken a Young Drivers course years ago – did the in-class portion, but never booked the on-road sessions. I was in school and working two jobs at the time, so even if I did the lessons, I wouldn’t have had time to practice. And having experienced the very structured pedagogy of YD, I was curious what other methods were out there. Enter Mr. Wong.
I was introduced to Mr. Wong by an acquaintance. And he’s categorically against the “10 hours of driving, road test in Lindsay” formula which churns out the wonderful people you see on the roads today. My first lesson was at 8pm on a Saturday. A silver sedan pulled up to the house and my first thought was, “Oh jeez, that’s a Civic.” (A 2001 Civic, as I later learned.) We went to a quiet part of the neighbourhood, swapped seats, and the first thing he told me to do was put it in drive.
2004 Honda Civic Si – Greg Wilson, Speed Racer – courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures. Click image to enlarge
At this point, I was thinking “shouldn’t I adjust the mirrors, the seat, flip up the sun visor (really, it’s 8 pm), and check my blind spot before moving off?” Nope. Horse-in-blinders mode it is. So, foot on brake, shift into gear, handbrake off, and off we went. Kind of.
“The car’s moving.” I hadn’t applied any force to the gas pedal at this point, and yet there it went, slowly creeping up to a breakneck 5 km/h. Then I remembered, right, people complained about early CVTs precisely because they didn’t do that.
And then I step on the gas, applying what I thought was a gentle, feather-light tap. Turns out I’m not so good at feeling things with the bottom of my foot. We surge forward and I’m imagining the Wachowski brothers smearing the garish Speed Racer motion blur on the side windows while JJ Abrams is hiding behind the garbage bin up ahead with a smattering of lens flares. Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I mutter under my breath, suddenly turning full Catholic. But this is why you have a passenger-side brake pedal.
“Don’t worry. That’s okay.” He was used to it.