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Driving By Myself

Today I drove my new Jetta for the first time, alone. I’m still trying to master its sensitive manual clutch. Mr. Pinault has given me several tense lessons during which I repeatedly stalled at traffic lights, shifted to the wrong gear (i.e, shifting from fifth gear to second gear while going 45 mph on the highway), and just generally spazzed out in traffic. “Driving’s not supposed to require this much thought!” I whined, my left foot pumping, my right hand shifting, my heart racing with certainty of impending fiery crash.

I had a 9am appointment in Waltham, so I started driving at 8am. Traffic was particularly heavy this morning, or so it seemed to me, because normally I’m paying no mind to the gridlock that I cruise past on my walk to the subway. Near a school, a cagey crossing guard who could change the traffic light to red with the touch of a button caused a 15 minute back-up. On Route 2, a broken-down van in the left lane created wicked gridlock that had me despairing for my future as a car commuter. “How do people do this every day without going mad?” I agonized, fiddling with satellite radio (free for the first six months), no song being able to distract me from the misery and frustration that is stop-and-go highway traffic, not even “Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland.”

But the manual clutch is becoming more automatic, as everyone has assured me it would. I’m starting to feel it. I made it to my appointment and back home again with no major incidents — just a few stalls and a several moments of “hmm, am I in third or fifth?” Pity the drivers behind me, though. I drive like an old lady with a texting addiction.

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