Sunday, November 06, 2005

¿Cómo se dice "Shift Gears, Dammit!"?

HAMILTON, Ohio (ZP) -- There's a striking difference between the so-called "Public-Ivy" mystique of Oxford and its nearest urban neighbor, Hamilton.

Oxford and Miami University exist in this wierd amalgamation of 1950s "Leave It to Beaver" nostalgia and MTV morality - complete with unreported sexual assaults, underreported substance abuse, and the illusion that popular culture begins and ends with the L.L. Bean catalogue.

Hamilton is a community as real as the nightly news, a snapshot of simple and hardscrabble existence painted with NASCAR shirts by calloused hands in vivid pawn shop Technicolor.

Living in the artificially maintained, blue-blood world of Oxford, the temptation to forget my blue-collar roots is a constant. As the old saying goes, if you forget where you come from, you'll never get where you're going.

So I try to get down to Hamilton as often as possible. Saturday was a perfect opportunity. This guy I know asked me if I'd be willing to "babysit" his daughter-in-law's sister this weekend. He had to work this weekend, his daughter-in-law was in North Carolina waiting for her hubby to get back from Iraq.

I said sure. He gave me an address and a cell number. No clue why an adult woman would need a "babysitter."


He forgot to mention two really important things. For one, the girl, L., speaks only a little English (she's visiting from Mexico). Two, the girl has a completely unrealistic idea about the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave - not everyone in their 20s dresses like Eminem or thinks 50 Cent is "da bomb."

We had a great time anyway, despite the fact that she had this tendency to be a bit touchy-feely and seemed to be under the impression that we were on a date or something.
Don't know why I got that vibe from her - maybe it was the purple lipstick and Chanel No. 5 on a Saturday morning. Or the micro-mini in frigging October.

I guess the touchy-feeliness came from the language barrier. Her English wasn't as bad as I first thought. And I guess my busted-ass Spanglish wasn't as horrible as I thought. But sometimes you just have to reach out and touch somebody to communicate.

We had lunch, hit up the mall in nearby Fairfield, and a couple of thrift stores. On the way back, she asked if she could drive my truck - I thought she was trying to say she'd never driven a pick-up before and wanted to give it a shot.

Of course, I misunderstood. She had never driven a stick-shift before. Start the truck, off the clutch, truck lurches and dies. She tries again. Start the truck, off the clutch, move four inches, and the truck...lurches and dies.

After a 30 minute lesson, I felt comfortable enough letting her drive the five blocks back. Past the second light, I realized I'd forgotten one key component to my instruction:

There's more than one damned gear. ¿Cómo se dice "Shift Gears, Dammit!"?

My little Ranger sounded like a golf cart on heroin, cruising at 20-25 miles an hour in first gear. I slid down into the passenger seat, pulled my hat down over my eyes. I was sure I was going to die. Or that my pick-up would never run well again.

She had fun though.


Anonymous said...

Se dice, "Cambiar de marcha o velocidad"

"Cambia de velocidad segunda! Maladita sea!"

The ZenFo Pro said...

Ah, muchas gracias!

Jen said...

holy shit dude - like please tell me you at least like gotta little "something" for your troubles...wink wink ;-)

The ZenFo Pro said...

Well, I guess I got out of it the sense that I'm not good at showing someone how to drive stick. (And yeah, I know what you're really getting at..wink wink back.)