Stick’s First 48

My legs are on fire!

You don’t know how tiring it is walking to get your daily pastry. And did I mention, walking to practice, weights, and more practice?

Ok, ok. Maybe, I’m a bit dramatic, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that my legs are still on fire from all that walking!

Well, today is the big day… I woke up this morning singing ‘N Sync’s hit song “Baby, Bye, Bye, Bye [to walking].”

Today is the day I receive the keys.

Keys that will unlock a new level of exploration. Keys that will unlock a new level of energy. Keys (que the dramatic entry music) … that will unlock a new Chrysler Sebring.

Did I say ‘new’? Sorry, that is definitely not the case, but it is a beautifully working car. The age and scratches just add a little personality and character!

However, there is just one glitch to this perfectly scripted romance.

And that is, she’s a stick shift. That’s like my mom giving me a cookie that’s sugar free… it makes you not even want to eat it.

But beggars can’t be choosy, so here’s to the next 48 hours!

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THE FIRST 48:

Interior: nice and clean.

Exterior: looks as if it was in a heavy weight fight and came out alive.

She looks American (thanks Chrysler), she feels American, but does she drive as easy as an American?

I’m sitting in the locker room, keys in hand after our pre-season game, waiting for the crowd to clear out.

In all actuality, I’m super nervous and don’t want to stall-out or hit anyone in the first 5 min I have the car – so I came to this brilliant conclusion: If I sit here long enough, every human being will have left the arena parking lot, so my chances of hitting someone or embarrassing myself go way down.

I could have walked home and back 5 times by now.

But they say “Good things come to those that wait.” And finally it was just me, my new babe, and the parking lot.

I sit in the lush pleather black seats and grab hold of the cold steering wheel. The three pedals looks as foreign to me as a person with three feet. Not only am I going to have to drive with crazy European drivers, and they are CRAZY, but I am going to have to use both feet… welp, here goes nothin’!

I take a deep breath and turn the key.

 

Bhhhhhurrrr.

 

It doesn’t start.

 

Bhhhhurrrrr.

 

OHHH! (my impromptu lesson of stick-shift driving 2 summers ago in Spokane sparked my memory – thanks Bobby Moore)

i: You must push in the clutch in order to start the car.

 

REVVVV. We are in business.

I look down at the stick and notice there are no numbers, no reverse sign, no instructions, not even braille. Just a stick with a silver ball on top. So I move it, to what I think is reverse, and slowly begin rolling backwards. [Drew 1 – Car 0]

One second later, it dies. I’m not even half way out of the parking space! Great start. [Drew 1 – Car 1]

At least I know how to start it back up quickly!

Before you know it, I’m whipping around that empty parking lot going about the same speed I drove when I was 5 in my Fisher Price Cozy Coupe. Ten minutes pass and my confidence is building. I make the executive decision that it is time to take my talents to the streets!

At this time of night, there are no cars out: just me, my three pedals, and an open road. I round the corner and coast into my apartment complex’s parking lot, which is about as tight and squashed together as a New York subway. Just as I pull to a complete stop the car cuts off right on cue (as if I planned it that way), and my first stick trip is completed!

I lean, my now completely sweaty back, against the chair and shout!!! I’m loving it. For me, this was an adrenaline rush, a true accomplishment. Who needs a roller coaster when you can drive a stick shift through Romania?

I tug on the key to take it out of the ignition. It doesn’t budge.

 

I pull harder.

 

Still not moving.

 

I turn it backwards and forwards and front ways and back ways.

 

Still not moving.

 

I get out the car. Get back in the car. Run around the car.

 

Still not moving.

Honestly, I am sitting here thinking, “How dumb can I be?!! And I just thought the driving was going to be the hardest part…”

I try everything. I even contemplate how I am going to have to sleep in my car tonight. [Drew 1 – Car 2]

When my phone rings… it is my teammate telling me there is a button on the back of the steering column that must be pushed in to eject the key. Maybe this is common thing for you readers, but for me, I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS!

Pops right out. (currently rolling my eyes)

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The next morning is when things really begin to heat up.

You know that feeling when you roll out of bed, knowing you have the day off!?

… and you have the freedom to drive yourself around town and go wherever you wish? Yea! That was the feeling that flooded me this morning.

It was like my mind was screaming that song “Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up!!”

I fling the door open of the house, chest puffed, and strut down the stairs to my new beauty.

There she is, full of her killer personality … sitting there gasping with her gas tank open, one wind shield wiper pulled completely off, and the other flying towards the sky. What!? Not to mention she is sporting a nice gibberish note (that I obviously cannot understand) plastered to the windshield.

Didn’t the note’s author know I was an American??

Putting her back together took little time, but thankfully I decided I wasn’t going to let this first little hiccup ruin the rest of the day.

[P.S. After translation… the note read: “I am threatening you. Park here and I will mess your car up more.” However, the owner of the complex said it was a perfectly legal parking place, and I am allowed to park there.]

So I decide to be nice, move the car, and spend the morning at the spa (that our club provides for recovery from games and practices). I floated in and out of the salt-water pools, to the saunas, to the hot tubs, until my body began to feel like a shriveled plum.

I soon had as much spa as I could handle and concluded it was time to make my first pit stop: get some gas before my next adventure to the Promenade Mall.

I creep up slowly and place the car in park, all the while observing my surroundings to make sure I do this correctly.

I am paying with cash right… “Yea,” I tell myself. So I should go inside and pay for how much I am putting in my new ride? “Exactly.”

I hand the lady behind the counter 50 Leu.

She picks it up and stares blankly at me.

Oh, oh… I proceed to say Pump 3.

She says something in Romanian. I say something in English. She says something in Romanian. I say something in English. She goes to get a man who apparently spoke better English. But, I say he does not.

 

Good talk.

 

“You after pay.” “Ok.”

Well, that’s different! I then follow him back outside where we spend the next 4 and half minutes trying to unlock the gas tank! [Drew 1 – Car 3]

I know what your thinking… It can’t be that hard!

Well, you are wrong!!! We twisted it. We turned it. We shook it. The gas tank was not opening. Who puts a lock on the outside in the gas tank anyway?!

Finally, after the whole gas station had honked at us and gave us a piece of their hand (if you know what I mean), it popped open.

I got a sudden urge to run around screaming, “I DID IT! I OPENED THE TANK!”

It’s the little things in life. Yet, my struggles weren’t over. My new gas station friend continues to lend the helping hand. He picks up the pump as I continue to tell him “NO Diesel.” He says “ok.” Then he pumps away.

80 leu’s later, I’m inside paying for my new gas and am on my way.

She starts up like a champ.

Isn’t it funny how things normally happen at the worst times? I am sitting at the red light, on a one-way street, first in line. It changes green and my girl stalls. Not only is the car struggling to start back up, but I miss the whole green light!

I want you to imagine with me now. Fifteen plus cars, trucks, vans … all holding down their horn in unison as if they are trying to compete for the loudest sound at the horn symphony. The review mirror is flooded with red faces, steaming ears, and two hands lifted high in the sky wanting a piece of you.

Europeans have no chill.

 

Thankfully, God answers urgent prayers. My car starts back up for me, and I head to the mall.

I know you are hoping this blog it about over… well.

After a little shopping, I get back out to the car and it won’t start. Of course, it won’t start. I pop the hood like I know what I am looking for. I close the hood and don’t have a clue.

I continue the process of trial and error for 30 minutes before I realize it is a lost cause. This is the first 24 hours of my new wheels, and a dejected me has to lock her up and take the bus home.

 

Fast forward: The ball club was able to fix my car once they realized the “gas tank helper friend of mine” had put diesel in my tank. Yes, diesel. L

Two weeks pass. I show up for practice, and there she is: the beautiful Chrysler smiling again now that she is diesel less!

I’ve started to get he hang of this.

Trip number three. I am leaving our lunch restaurant and heading towards the mall once again. Pouring down rain. Traffic everywhere.

 

Scrreeeeeaarrrrrrch BAAAAAAAMMMMM!!!

My head bobs slightly forward.

It sounded as if the car behind me had imploded.

I was stopped at a red light in a line of traffic on a one-way street, and apparently the person behind me wanted to make a dramatic entrance. I give him a 10/10! He slides down the street, and hits a pole behind me, barely kissing my back bumper.

What?!! I cannot believe this? I have to be a magnet for trouble!

I was sitting still in a line of traffic, for Pete’s sake!

 

Bang! Bang! Bang!

There is an older man banging on my window… his ponytail whipping back and forth like a horses’ tail in the wind! He violently waves for me to get out of the car, all the while ranting in some foreign language. Romanian, perhaps? J

Me being flustered is an understatement! I begin stuttering in English.

[Now is the point in time when I should inform you that I have yet to drive in my shoes. They are too big to go back and forth between three pedals. So I will take them off and place them in the passenger seat when I drive. Please don’t judge me.]

I slip on my shoes and jump from the car. My broken English does not slow down the man’s antics as he prances around to the back of my car and begins buffing out the small scratch he caused. (a scratch that I couldn’t even find due to the other scratches that already adorned the car)

Unfortunately, his vehicle was in poor shape considering he hit a pole first. But that didn’t slow him down!

Deep breathe. I realized my car was perfectly fine. But that didn’t stop his hands from flailing and clapping together in wild exaggeration. He looked as if he was about to bow and pray to me one moment and do a hula dance the next. His speech was now drowned out by the once-again horn symphony that seems to follow me!

I was so lost, standing in the middle of the street in the rain! But wait … My feet are killing me!?

 

I look down…… Seriously?!

 

I’m standing in the middle of this scene, all eyes on this Romanian and myself, and my shoes are on the wrong feet. My big toes are losing consciousness as we speak. Who does that???!!!

My brain is in overdrive. What does the man want me to do? Did he want me to drive away? Did I need to get his number? What is going on!!! My feet are killing me.

The longer I stand there, the more dramatic the situation is becoming.

In my comical state, I whip out my phone to snap pictures of this man, his car, and his license tag. Yet, there was one problem. My phone camera is frozen on the front screen….

So I did what any normal person who wears his shoes on the wrong feet would do. I began taking “selfies” with him and his license tags. His antics abruptly died down a bit to say the least.

Did I mention … my feet hurt?!

I waddle back to the car… and drive onward.

This was my stick shift’s “First 48.”

 

Currently: I have learned a lot since then, thank goodness! I have added professional stick shift driver to my résumé. I just drove my first long- distance trip to Cluj Airport so I could fly to Paris for a few team off days. I am currently sitting in the airplane now typing away.

If you enjoyed my ride – subscribe below, hit the like button, or please SHARE with your friends!!! Next week stay tuned for a VLOG (Video Blog) of my trip to Paris!

Love you guys!

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7 thoughts on “Stick’s First 48

  1. Oh my gosh, Drew. Could you make me laugh any harder? Thanks for the ab workout. You have topped my stick learning driving story. You will have to get Uncle Chuck to tell you
    that one. Enjoy your time there and for goodness sake be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy reading about your adventures! I told you a stick isn’t easy, I should know I had to drive your Mom’s while they were on their honeymoon and it wasn’t a pretty site.😁 I would have loved to joined you in Paris😉 for I’m sure there will be more funny adventures to tell. Stay safe and play hard. Love and miss you.

    Liked by 1 person

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