Autumn moves in like an inexperienced driver, one who hasn’t quite mastered the gears that make the earth revolve smoothly around the sun.  He’s wary at first, but soon barrels ahead into sweater weather, only to backpedal into summer for two sweltering weeks in October.

Speaking of which, my nephew and niece turned sixteen and started driving this year, stirring up memories of my own early experiences behind the wheel.  I can appreciate why parents aren’t especially eager to ride shotgun while their progeny learn to navigate the open road.  Mine sent me to a two-week driving school.  My first in-car instructor was a very pregnant Hispanic woman.  It terrified me to realize three lives would be at stake if we crashed.  The teacher, blithely unaware
that I was a driving virgin who had never even backed the family Buick out of the garage, told me to “adjust the seat and mirrors” while she popped back inside to use the restroom.  She returned to find me ill-positioned and completely perplexed.  How was I supposed to adjust the seat if I didn’t know what I needed to be able to do or reach?  How could I adjust the mirrors when I didn’t know what I should be able to see?  She sighed; it was gonna be a long two hours for both of us.  We went no faster than 35 mph, circling clockwise, then counterclockwise around the block, me struggling to keep the car between the lines as
I practiced stops and right and lefthand turns.  I must have scared the poor kid right out of her; I arrived the next morning to find she’d been replaced by an easygoing hillbilly with long hair and a scraggly beard.  On the entrance ramp to the highway, he slid one foot out of his man-sandal and pulled it up onto his lap. “Turn your left blinker on,” he said.  He barely glanced up from the callus he was picking as I merged, white-knuckled, into the speeding traffic.  I learned to drive a stick shift in my boyfriend’s Mercury Lynx.  It was surprisingly easy; I can recall only one embarrassing incident.  I was first in line at a traffic light, waiting to make a left turn.  When I got the green arrow, I manipulated the pedals as I had been taught, but somehow, I stalled the car.  I tried again and again, to no avail.  Traffic backed up behind me.  Angry honks filled the air.  Stymied, I fingered the shifter, realizing as the light turned red that the car was in third gear.  More precisely, jammed in third gear.  When the light changed, I punched the gas and held on as the engine caught and the car bucked and jerked around the corner.  I managed to coast safely into a parking lot and use a pay phone to call my boyfriend, who dispatched two of his mechanically-inclined uncles to the scene.  Mark and Rich were kind enough to get me un-jammed without any snickers or snide remarks.  At least, none that I ever knew about.  It was a life lesson in having patience with beginners… both ourselves and others.


Another one of Earth’s boys
must have gotten his learner’s permit
Suddenly, the orbital ride
is downright jerky and unpredictable
Stalling out and stopping,
creeping cautiously through summer,
then punching the gas,
tossing equinox headlong into solstice,
only to jam on the brakes
and throw the spin of the entire planet
into a wobbling reverse
Trees blush in embarrassed empathy
Earth sighs and sets his jaw;
they will tackle parallel parking later

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  1. Tippy Gnu September 24, 2017 / 7:44 am

    Seems like a good comparison. Autumn over here has definitely arrived with a jerk, with temps crashing to fifteen degrees below normal. But this week they’re expected to jump back up into the 80s.

    It’s just like when I learned to drive. I got my license when I was 16, and two weeks later wrecked my stepfather’s pickup truck. It was a good lesson though, as I’ve been a very careful driver ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 24, 2017 / 8:44 am

      Thanks, Tippy. Sorry to hear about the crash, bet you were even sorrier when your stepfather found out. The weather here bordered on COLD for two weeks. I broke down and moved my sweaters, flannel-lined jeans, coats, hats, scarves, etc, from the storage closet into the regular one. Then it zoomed up to 90 degrees and I had to dig my shorts back out so I didn’t roast to death. Happens every autumn, but still takes me by surprise… like Charlie Brown and Lucy’s football-kicking routine. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter Klopp September 24, 2017 / 8:28 pm

    I can see why you wouldn’t so easily forget those embarrassing and horrific experiences behind the wheel in your youth. You should have scared that long-haired driving teacher with an emergency stop. Yes, I know at that age one wouldn’t dare. Good poem for the story, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 25, 2017 / 12:27 pm

      Thanks, Peter. I can laugh at those stories now, even the Driver’s Ed Hillbilly. Back then, they kind of threw us into the deep end. Nowadays, our state requires kids to log 50 or 60 practice hours with an adult before they can even take the test. Trying new things is always awkward (poetry included); we have to be willing to be beginners, to make mistakes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Peter Klopp September 25, 2017 / 12:39 pm

        You are so right, Joan. Fear can have a paralyzing grip on our actions. Before my retirement I always told my students to bold go ahead and write. ‘Do not worry about making mistakes. They can be corrected later.’ But with blogging we do want to be a little more careful. That’s why I pre-write my posts on a word processor. I suspect you do the same, Joan.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan September 25, 2017 / 12:53 pm

        I use Microsoft Word to rough it out, do a good bit of editing and revising, then cut/paste the finished product into WordPress. Were you a writing teacher before retirement, Peter? I wish my high school English teachers had possessed an attitude like yours. Writing is more than just spelling and commas and periods; words that come from the heart can be polished into gems. 🙂


  3. L. T. Garvin, Author September 26, 2017 / 6:24 pm

    This brought back some fun memories. I grew up in the sticks where we were all driving before our 16th birthday, lol. I had a coach for driver’s ed and instead of picking his calluses, he studied football plays (naturally). I did; however, teach all 3 of my kids to drive. I used that imaginary passenger side brake many times (especially with my son, ha ha). I adore the poem, it is how pretty much all our seasons are in Texas. I loved the “tossing equinox headlong into solstice” and the image of the blushing embarrassed trees with Earth setting his jaw. Excellent and fun! Parallel parking, gee who needs that, ha ha! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 27, 2017 / 5:25 pm

      Glad you enjoyed my “word pictures” Lana. Our high school was rural and lots of kids drove before 16, but I wasn’t one of them. How funny that the lady without a passenger-side brake uses it while the Hippie driving instructor totally ignores his. Autumn has been a wild ride so far, very orange. Our trees are starting to turn. Orange hibiscus and dahlias are blooming, and my curious orange cat is checking everything out. Definitely my favorite season. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. K E Garland September 27, 2017 / 5:11 pm

    lol great analogy and stories Joan! Growing up in Chicago, drivers ed was an actual class and then we had to go to a place for driving lessons, so I was most surprised to learn that down here, in Florida, my own children took lessons online and then WE were expected to teach them how to drive. I think I’ve suffered several mini- heart attacks over the past couple years lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 28, 2017 / 4:04 pm

      Thanks, KE. Glad you survived the near heart attacks! A lot of things have changed over the years. Here in Ohio, even with driving classes, the parents assume much of the responsibility for teaching. There are rules now about driving after dark, how many kids are allowed to be in the car, and stricter penalties for texting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. circumstance227 October 27, 2017 / 3:55 pm

    It’s funny that autumn – the season of change – reminds you of driving school. I learned to drive in the winter – the dead of winter – in Wisconsin , no less. The streets were white and icy. There were no empathatic trees. There was no third gear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 27, 2017 / 8:59 pm

      I actually took my driving lessons in the summer, many months after my 16th birthday. My overprotective parents wouldn’t let me start in the winter, too dangerous. I think they wanted to hold off on adding me to their auto insurance policy for as long as possible. I hope you didn’t run into any trees, empathetic or otherwise. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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