Getting Ready to Drive

Getting Ready to Drive

I raced a Lamborghini.  More accurately, I drove a Lamborghini around a small track at a mall parking lot in Pennsylvania, but it was awesome.  Some of our great friends wanted to take Matt to drive a fast car for his birthday, and I said if we were going I’d try too.  I’m not a car person, but why not?

I hadn’t thought much of it until a week before we were going when I woke up in the middle of the night, bolting upright in bed, realizing that it might actually be hard to drive a fast car through sharp turns.  I was right.

On our way to The Motorsport Lab and Experience, temporarily in Harrisburg, PA for our driving pleasure, I asked Matt whether I should choose the Lamborghini or the Ferrari.  It’s all the same to me.  He suggested the Ferrari—apparently everyone gets that a Ferrari is fast.  I’m not sure what most people think of Lamborghinis.  If they are like me, they don’t.  Then I got there and said, “Oh, which one is the yellow one?  I want to drive the yellow one.”  I’ve never felt more like a girl.  Yellow was the Lamborghini which turned out to be a good thing.  It was all wheel drive which would make it a little easier for me to drive

My car for two minutes.

My car for two minutes.

When it was my turn I got behind the wheel and the instructor, Paul, slid into the low passenger seat beside me.  “Have you driven a fast car before?” he asked.

“No, just my Honda Fit.”

“Oh, this is just like that,” he tried to reassure me with a smile.  The car was an automatic.  It has these new paddle shifts behind the wheel.  My Fit does too.  As a former manual driver, I don’t get it.  Do I need to pretend I’m actually shifting?  The paddles aren’t the same. But I was happy not to have to shift.  He talked me through what was about to happen, and in a moment of panic, I think because everyone was watching, I realized I couldn’t remember the gas from the brake.  Pull yourself together, Downie, I thought.  I did.

You get three laps around a small course of cones.  The entire experience takes less than two minutes.  And it may have been the most expensive two minutes of my life.  Our friends got a deal on tickets, which cost $100 per person for the ride.  That was the deal.

Paul was a great teacher.  I was a horrible student.

“Don’t break.  Don’t break,” he’d repeat as we approached every turn.  I didn’t trust that the car could handle turns at 60-miles-per-hour.  My Honda Fit cannot.  I broke every time, screeching the wheels.  “Don’t Break!?!?” I exasperatedly responded once accidently throwing the whole car into neutral.  Paul was going to deserve his tip with me.  He was patient and just seemed to be having fun himself.

Matt and Mike said that each time around they got more comfortable with the car.  I felt the opposite. The experience was so exhilarating that each time around my heart raced faster.  By my third lap I was shaking with excitement and couldn’t process what Paul was saying.  It was a lot of fun.  And, while I don’t think it made me a car person, I can totally get while someone could be a car person.  Because a Lamborghini is actually very different from my Honda Fit.

When I got out I felt baffled as to how anyone ever learns to trust that a car can make a fast turn.  No one at this event was a regular Ferrari driver, but they all seemed to handle the car better than me, or at least with more confidence.  Men, twenty to sixty, hopped out of the car after their race speechless, grinning, and looking like kids on Christmas morning.  I think I looked the same, even though our friend’s seven-year-old daughter asked if I was, “even trying to go fast.”  Hey, I floored it every time Paul told me to.

My friend Mike tried to explain that you have to feel the car and listen to its feedback.  And therein lies my problem.  It always comes back to feeling.  I couldn’t feel anything from the car.  I was too busy feeling my pulse sore.  It was such a rush and I didn’t exceeded 65 mph.  I’ve learned to feel more in movement, but really I’m not an intuitive feeler (not a Myer’s Briggs reference).   In Dragon Boat racing one of the drills requires the team of twenty to paddle with eyes closed and try to stay in time with each other by feeling the rhythm of the boat.  I dread it every season.  I can’t feel anything.

I’ll keep trying to feel—in a car, in a boat or in Pilates.  At least it’s an excuse to drive another Lamborghini.  If I must, I must.