With the grace of Daffy Duck and the poise of Olive Oil, physical activities elude me. Anything requiring an agility level past that of a slug leaves me flat on my back, hands and feet flailing in the air, waiting to be rescued. Simply stated, I am a klutz.
I first realized the severity of my affliction as a teenager and quickly learned to avoid situations where my hands and feet were required to operate in unison. It was easy enough to forego cheerleading and dancing, but Gym class was more difficult to dodge. It appears that “klutzism” is not one the diseases recognized by the Board of Health, therefore, absences due to the illness are unexcused. Even though I was labeled “Pat the Klutz, Flat On Her Butts” in Gym class, Driver’s Education class proved to be far more humiliating.
Graduating seniors were entrusted with the task of teaching sophomores how to drive. I was assigned to Ralph, the school nerd. On the first day of class, Ralph, who was barely as tall as the Volkswagen but just as wide, opened the door of the Beetle for me. “Do you know how to drive?” he asked.
I gave him my best, “I may be a klutz, but I’m not a nerd” look and smirked, “Of course I know how to drive!” As Ralph opened the passenger-side door to get in, I noticed a small problem. “There’s something wrong with this car. It has three pedals,” I informed him.
Ralph raised his eyebrows into a hairy arch and said, “There’s supposed to be three pedals. This car has a manual transmission.”
“Oh. Well, I want a regular car, with only two pedals,” I told him.
Ralph raised his caterpillar eyebrows even closer to his receding hairline. “You have to drive a stick shift in order to pass the driving exam,” he explained.
The wheels in my head started to turn and so did my attitude towards Ralph. I gave him a big smile and listened as he instructed me on how to start the engine. A few seconds later, the Beetle was hopping through the parking lot like a bucking bronco, the two of us holding on for life. It finally came to rest when the two front wheels went over a ditch and lodged in a puddle of mud.
Calmly, Ralph got out of the car and started to push. “Okay, give it a little gas and back up,” he said. He forgot to tell me to take it out of first gear. I was sure I’d killed Ralph as he was hurled through the air and landed in the mire.
For three days, Ralph persevered as I bounced the Beetle through stop signs, traffic lights, and the cafeteria. The realization finally came that I simply did not have the coordination to drive the car.
On exam day, I met Ralph with tears flowing from my eyes. “I just can’t fail this exam!” I pleaded.
Ralph pondered for a moment, then offered a deal. “The senior prom is a few weeks away and I don’t have a date. If I pass you on the driving exam, will you go to the prom with me?” I agreed and walked away with a passing grade.
A few days later, Ralph approached me in the hallway and asked, “What time should I pick you up for the prom?”
The words that came from my mouth have haunted me for thirty years. “Drop dead, jerk!” was my response. Ralph’s mouth fell and tears welled in his eyes. I immediately realized that in my quest to pass one exam, I had miserably failed another.
Throughout life, we are given many exams, but perhaps the real test is how far we are willing to go to get what we want. Had I failed the driving exam, I could have taken it again. Unfortunately, I cannot re-take that exam in human compassion. The hurt I inflicted is a final grade.
Although I can’t change the past, I have vowed to go forward learning and leaning on God’s word in preparation for the Final Exam. One day I will stand before God and account for all I have done. That’s one exam, I don’t want to fail, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to strike a deal with the Teacher.
By the way, I still can’t drive a Volkswagen.
© July 2004