Saturday, December 27, 2008

How Much Torque Does This Baby Have?

When we were living in Wheaton, Peter bought a Mini Cooper S. It was a fun little car, like driving a go-cart, but the downside was the cuteness factor often brought unwelcome attention. After about six months, Peter decided his summer fling with the Mini was over and it was time to get a new car.

We spent about a week, visiting dealerships and going out on test drives. We quickly fell into a pattern on the test drive. Peter would drive and would ask the sales guy (it was always a guy) questions like 'The horsepower on this model is x, so how much torque does it have?' and 'Does this model have the super-updated whirzligger that I've read so much about?' (OK, I'm making that second one up because I can't remember all the questions, but he always asked technical questions about the car.) I'd ask the sales guy questions like 'Did you ever have a test drive where you were so freaked out by the person's driving, you asked them to stop?' and 'Did you ever have a test drive where you got pulled over by the police?'

I was always amused by this difference. He was completely interested and focused on the car. I was indifferent about the car, but excited by the novelty and the possible opportunity for collecting interesting story.

Peter now drives a Nissan Patrol, which is a giant SUV. I always feel like I have to justify this choice - it's because of his photography business. He needs four-wheel drive and also needs to be able to carry multiple passengers and bags of camera equipment comfortably.

I know the sterotype of short women is that they love to drive great big honking SUVs. Maybe it's just short mothers who feel that way, since the auto industry in the States has successfully perpetuated the myth that SUVs are safer than smaller cars. I have no interest in driving Peter's car, especially on twisty country roads or through narrow villages where cars are parked up on both sides of the street.

I'm not great at judging distances and don't have very good spatial relations skills. So driving a 3-tonne vehicle that feels about two feet wider than my car is nerve-wracking. So much so, that until yesterday, I had never driven Peter's car on the road. I had only driven it in circles around our house.

But yesterday, we had too many cars in Peter's parents' driveway, the inevitable result of Christmas guests who are responsible enough not to drink and drive. Peter wanted to return his sister-in-law's car and he wanted me to drive his car. I wasn't happy about this, in fact, I was down-right terrified. But the traffic was light, the trip was only about a mile, the roads were nice and wide, and I'd only have to navigate one roundabout.

Peter's parents' house is on a busy main road, so he was kind enough to back the car out of the driveway and get it pointed in the right in direction. All I had to do was get in the car and drive. So my worried face and I climbed into the car and first had to adjust the seat and all the mirrors. Then the next order of business was to get the car into first gear and out of the driveway. Peter stood next to the car, giving me instructions on how to manage his clutch.

I stalled the first two times I attempted it and then managed to blast enough gas into the system to propel the giant vehicle forward. The car seemed sluggish, but I chalked that up to its size and inertia. I shifted smoothly into second and felt like I was getting the hang of things. The shifting to third didn't go so smoothly and I was terrified of stalling, so I popped into back into second and slapped on the hazard lights, figuring I had to warn people that I was going to be abnormally slow.

I coasted up the roundabout and was able to time it just right so I didn't have to stop the car. I was in the correct lane for my exit and was halfway to it when a silver sedan screeched up next to me, the driver madly blasting his horn. My first thought was that my lane position was wrong, that I was misjudging the width of the car and squeezing in on him. But that wasn't the case.

I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong, so I slowed down a little bit and made my way to my exit. I watched him take the same exit (from the wrong lane) and then saw him slow down and wait for me, so he could angrily beep his horn some more at me. I refused to make eye contact with him and just continued driving.

Wouldn't you know it, we got stuck at the next traffic light. He was in the turning lane and there was an empty lane between us, so I decided to sneak a peak. He rolled down his window and shouted at me 'Why have you got your hazard warning lights on?' (Um, to warn people that I'm a hazard in a three-tonne death machine?) I shouted back that it was to let people know there was a problem with the car (yes, the driver, but still) and I may have maybe perhaps called him a not so nice name. I was boiling with anger at that point - all that commotion and fuss just because I had my hazards on? For feck's sake, I was terrified that I'd accidentally hit someone and was dragging the poor sod, such was this fella's overreaction.

The next half-mile went without incident - I was even able to find third gear. When I got to my brother-in-law's house, I parked on the street, put the car in first gear, and went to pull up the parking brake. Only to discover that the parking brake was already on. Nervous that the parking brake was now well and truly banjaxed because of my stupidity, I took the brake off and then put it on again, pulling up as hard as I could. I was on an incline, so I put the car in neutral just to check it. Seemed like the parking brake was holding.

Peter pulled my sister-in-law's car into the driveway and met me at the curb. He asked how it went and I told him fine, except for the jerk who yelled at me. I was going to try not to mention the parking brake, but then Peter's next comment was 'What smells like it's burning?'I hung my head and 'fessed up to my sin of parking brake omission.

So, if anyone ever asks me 'How much torque does this baby have?' I can tell them from first-hand experience - enough to drive 30+mph with the parking brake on.


At 27 December 2008 at 18:18, Blogger Babaloo said...

Oh, so funny. I knew what was coming when you couldn't get it into 3rd gear the first time. But don't worry, it's happened to all of us! :-)

At 27 December 2008 at 22:30, Blogger laurie said...

oh, i feel your pain. i'm exactly the same way with other people's cars. i think i've even done the parking brake thing...

At 28 December 2008 at 02:57, Blogger Kaycie said...

Poor thing. I wonder if it was smoking as you drove down the road?

At 28 December 2008 at 09:35, Blogger wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I knew you were going to say you'd left the parking brake on. How? Because I've done the same idiotic thing -- more than once.

At 28 December 2008 at 23:51, Blogger Career Guy said...

Time for another call to Click 'n' Clack.

At 30 December 2008 at 00:58, Blogger ped crossing said...

When choosing a car, I go for the important stuff, how useful are the cupholders, is there decent storage pockets, other vital stuff like that.

Parking brakes are remarkable things, you can abuse them a lot.


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