Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Italian Driving School Diaries - Day one of learning to drive stick.

Bloggisti my instructor, Bruno, threw me into the deep end.

First he drove from the Autoscuola to the Parco Della Musica. There's a big parking lot there and the roads don't have too much traffic. I saw several other driving school cars there.

For my first time EVER driving a stick I didn't do too badly. I stalled out only twice. The clutch feels so foreign to me. To start the car I had trouble remembering to depress the clutch, then give some gas, come slowly off the clutch, etc. Ack.

Going from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd gear was actually fun. Stopping and starting are going to be a problem. ha.

We were driving on the quiet side streets. Bruno said I was doing a great job. Then instead of making a right onto another side street he had me go straight and turn left onto the busy street (Lungotevere) that runs along the Tiber. Was he crazy? WTF?

I went right into heavy traffic with scooters, underpasses and to top it off, it suddenly started to pour buckets. I drove closer and closer to the Center while trying not to freak out. Then he told me I couldn't use the right hand side mirror in the test so don't use it now, only the rear view mirror. Great.

Finally we were close to the Cavour Bridge and we switched seats. I'm glad he didn't make me drive through Piazza Navona.

Bruno told me I needed to relax. I'm a good driver and tensing up will cause me to make mistakes. I haven't driven in over a year, so I was feeling rusty earlier. Plus, I know this is strange, I get nervous driving with other people in the car. Even after 20 plus years. It makes no sense.

If I were going to take the test on an automatic car (I have that option but then I would only have an automatic license) I would take at least one or two driving classes. Bruno busted me for putting my right hand in the wrong position when I went to turn the steering wheel for a left turn. I griped the wheel with my palm facing upwards. That is one bad habit I need to break.

I think I will be better prepared for my next lesson. Now I get why my friends who drive stick/standard say you have to pay more attention. I also have to pay attention because these lessons are mostly in Italian. My comprehension has definitely improved since I started going to the school.


erin :: the olive notes said...

wow! you have guts girl! Good for you...not sure if I could handle it...although I adore driving stick shifts. It would be hard to go back to automatic b/c I think manuals are so much fun :)

Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura said...

You'll have to learn to swear 'Italian style' !

glamah16 said...

Good Luck. Finally saw Traitor last weekend. I'm proud of you.

babyboyla75@aol.com said...

good for you arlene, I've only drove sticks since I've had my own cars. , but I don't know about driving in roma. Im used to driving with a stick now.
I had to learn to drive in san fran and they have no mercy :-)
you are going to know way more italian than me when i get there!

Fly Brother said...

LOL - This reminds me of the scene in Clueless where Stacey Dash accidentally got on the freeway. Hilarity.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Good Luck, I don't drive at all..I have been reading your blog for a while, now I have seen a picture of you through, My Bella Vita who you met the other day in Rome with her husband :-) I Hope you all had a brilliant day, looks like it!

homebody at heart said...

You can drive through Piazza Navona? Congrats on your driving lesson! I'm sure you'll do just fine. I loved driving a stick but it is harder to do some things like use the cell phone (whoops, that's illegal now in CA) or eat while driving but it is fun when you get the hang of it. Just pretend you're driving Formula 1 as you shift and downshift and find yourself a lonely, winding road and put on some proper tunes. You'll love it!

Anonymous said...

Its funny because I had the opposite experience. I learned how to drive on a stick and then had to take my driving test on an automatic. I kept trying to push in the clutch. Honestly there will be a time very soon when you won't even know that your are shifting, it will be like second nature!

milanesemasala said...

Keep up the good work! I've been there and know how terrifying it is to drive stick. It was bad enough in Milan but I hear the driving is far worse in Rome. But if this klutz could do it, I'm sure you'll pass with flying colours. Just don't drive your boss's new BMW like this guy here: http://tinyurl.com/cd6eoq

joanne at frutto della passione said...

Good for you! Keep us posted!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

erin - I had no choice in the matter. I had to turn onto the street. My instructor ignored my pleas to stay in the parking lot.

scintilla - ha. I already know a few choice words.

glamah16 - Thank you. I'm glad you like the film.

babyboy - driving stick in San Francisco? On those hills? I'm impressed. I can't even deal with flat ground at this point.

flybrother - OMG! Not the freeway, not the freeway!! One of the funniest scenes in the movie.

Anne - we had a great time. I hope to make it to Cherrye's next of the woods soon.

homebody - yes those who have the right permits can. I never see Italians eating in cars the way I did back in L.A. I'm not talking about someone eating a candy bar or some chip but in L.A. people would eat a full on meal from some drive thru. You're right with a stick that would be almost impossible.

scattermoments - that happened to a couple of my friends as well. They feel much more comfortable with a stick. I hope it becomes second nature.

milanese - thank you. I have never driven in traffic like that. Ever and I used to drive in NYC. I'm going to check out the link.

joanne - grazie. I will.

Gibber said...

"wait...what the hell? You're going on the free way!"

Ah, don't get me started on Clueless, the best movie ever. Yeah, I said it!

Congrats sis. The thought of driving stick makes me shake. You prolly don't remember this because you were at college, but once or twice when the car broke down, dad borrowed Mr. Ring's car, and it was a stick. SOMEHOW, the man drove it. I guess he learned to drive stick in the islands...

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

gibber - you know I own the Clueless DVD:The Whatever Edition.

I assume dad learned stick growing up and I'm not surprised Mr. Ring being from Denmark (?) had a stick.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like your doing great so congrats, and dont do like me and make a right turn on a red light. It's not legal there (at least in Florence)
(Lucky for me Italian drivers do illegal things all the time so I just got a warning from the driving instructor. )

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

anon - thanks. I do have to remember the "no right on red" rule here.

girasoli said...

I can't imagine having to learn to drive a stick in Rome! I learned on a deserted road in Colorado. I hope you next lesson is less stressful.

Lary said...

This blog is very interesting and funny too. Thanks for sharing your part of life with us .
Good Day

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

girasoli - it was a little less stressful. I started to chew gum to help calm my nerves. :)

lary - thanks for the compliment and stopping by my blog.

driving schools said...

its a great blog.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

driving school - grazie.