In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Stop That At Once
Reflection 1980/Penned 2008
“Stop that at once!”
“Don’t shout at me.”
‘Oh God,’ I thought, ‘this is going to be worse than I expected.’ I leaned across and switched off the engine. “I was not shouting, I was speaking loudly. If I had been shouting, I would have said, ‘STOP THAT AT ONCE.’”
The whole thing had started badly. She had turned up with gloves, in mid summer.
“What are those?”
“I can see they’re gloves. What are they for?”
“They’re driving gloves, darling,” she spoke as if explaining something complicated to a not over bright two year old. To illustrate the point, she turned over her brown leather gloves to reveal no fingers or backs to them.
“They are a fashion item, nothing to do with driving.”
“But you have gloves in the car.” She pointed to a pair sticking out of the side of the car door.
“True,” I admitted, “but they are to keep my little hands warm in winter, and you can see they still have backs in them. Keep the gloves if you feel better in them.” Perhaps there should be a law against a man trying to teach his wife to drive.
“You were still shouting at me.”
Now for younger listeners, this is an old but still very successful game to play. To deviate from an unwinnable discussion, one party creates an entirely fraudulent discussion or argument, an elephant trap, into which the other party can fall. Our discussion had nothing to do with shouting or not shouting but with Madame’s propensity to slip the car into drive and to cause an accident. Having no defence to this, the false argument was created.
It still happens to day. Mr Blair took the United Kingdom to war in Iraq on the basis of that country having weapons of mass destruction. Some people at the time said this was based on an untruth, some said Blair lied. So, when the unfortunate David Kelly died, it was a personal and family tragedy, and not a matter of national or international crisis. By the lies and half lies and obstructions at the Hutton enquiry, his death became the story, and not the failure after months to find the slightest trace of WMD.
But back to the Capri. The discussion could have escalated into the screaming, slagging off stage, to be followed by sulking and then the ultimate WMD, tears.
“Fine, have it your own way. Please do not fiddle with anything until I ask you to? OK?”
No, reply, but then non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words.
“Now, we will just run through all that again, and then you can drive. Please name the instruments for me.”
“Look, I’ve done all that. I just want to drive.”
“All right, let’s settle for just one. What does the clutch do?”
“It disengages the engine.”
“Excellent, which one is it?”
“The one in the middle.”
“You remember, ABC, accelerator, brake and clutch. So you wouldn’t have been correct whether you started from left or right.”
She scowled. “All right. Why can’t I learn on a car with no gears?”
“Because the only one I know is a milk float. All cars have gears, some are changed automatically by the car’s speed, where you don’t need a clutch, and others you have to change yourself. Like this one. Also getting your test on a manual car allows you to drive automatics, but not the other way round.”
We ran through the car’s bodily functions again and, offering a prayer for forgiveness, I said. “OK, we are all set.”
The first two or three times the Capri stuttered to a halt, and then we were away.
“Now what do your engine revs tell you?”
“The noise of the engine.”
“I’m going too fast?”
“Not quite, you need to change into second gear. Remember what I told you; clutch down, that’s right, the one on the left, move the gear lever, and let the clutch slowly up, pressing on the accelerator at the same time. Not bad, not at all bad. We will turn left at the next turning. Slow down, slower, signal left, no left. That’s it and round we go.”
She grinned nervously. “How am I doing?”
“You’re doing OK. Pull into the car park at the football ground, and we can practice a few turns.”
For a first lesson she did brilliantly, and after three months I said. “That’s it. Nothing more I can do. Go and get a couple of lessons at a driving school and take your test.”
By this time the gloves were long gone and she had become a competent, safe and potentially very good driver, despite, not because of, my teaching.
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t like it. I won’t drive again.”
And she never did.
Written by B.M