When I was 8 years old, I had to try and learn how to drive stick on a frozen lake in Minnesota. My dad had gotten our teal ‘95 Ford Escort wagon stuck while we were ice fishing, and he had to resort to desperate measures.

Let me backtrack a little. Growing up in Minnesota, you get used to certain activities that would make people living in warmer climates cringe. One of those things is driving your car on frozen lakes to go ice fishing.

After we’d spent a while in one spot, sitting on buckets and catching nothing, my dad decided it was time leave. It was just too cold to have me and my two sisters, ages 5 and 3 at the time, out on the ice that day. So, he packed us all up, threw the car in reverse, and...

Nothing. The Escort wouldn’t budge. The heat from the engine had melted the few inches of snow around the front tires, and the cold wind had done its job and froze all that water. The front tires were trapped in ice.

My dad had me get out and push. I was 8 years old. Needless to say, upper body strength wasn’t exactly something I had an excess amount of at that age. So, he had to try something different. He had to get out and push, and he was going to put me in the driver’s seat.

He theorized that, if he timed his push correctly, that he could have me do the driving instead. Even if all I did was stall the engine, his hope was that it would be just enough for him to get some momentum and push the car. Now, he had to teach an 8-year-old how a manual transmission works.

“Alright, so, keep your left foot on the left pedal, and then, start pressing your right foot on the gas pedal. Then, start taking your left foot off the clutch. Clutch, gas. Clutch, gas. Clutch, gas… Sound good?”

“YEP!”

“OKAY! 3, 2, 1... GO!”

I proceeded to rapidly press the clutch and gas pedals in what I assumed was exactly how he explained it. CLUTCH GAS CLUTCH GAS CLUTCH GAS. The car revved out of control and died HARD. My dad came running around, confused about what the hell I was doing in there.

“WHOA WHOA WHOA, what the heck are you doing??!”

“I did what you said. Clutch gas clutch gas clutch gas.” 

“That’s not what I... oh, boy. Never mind.”

Moments later, somebody in a truck came by and helped us free the Escort. So, yeah, I guess I didn’t really drive the car, but that’s definitely the first time I operated one. Even if I sucked at it.