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When my husband and I were first married in 1977, our first car was a Pontiac Astra.

This car had a standard transmission.

From time to time my husband Frank, would try to teach me the fundamentals of how to drive a standard vehicle. For whatever reason, I could never get the car to go forwards. I could only make it go backwards.

All these years later, that still mystifies me.

Shortly after I started working at the post office in 1988, it became apparent that a second family car would be needed. My husband had set his sights on purchasing an economic vehicle which came with a standard transmission.

I needed to immediately learn how to drive this vehicle.

It was decided that the best course of action was to get some professional help and hire a driving instructor to teach me how to drive a car with a standard transmission.

I, of course had my doubts. It was now over ten years that I had been trying to understand how to get the car to roll forward while in first gear. The problem was that I could not understand how one instinctively knew when it was appropriate to step on the gas while easing up on the clutch.

It just didn’t make sense to me.

Enter Mr. Driving Instructor who in the end was successful in getting me moving from a full stop while in first gear. Even better, I was able to go from first gear into second.

Through his skillful tutelage I finally saw the proverbial light.

How did he do it?

Easy.

All he had to say were two words.

Those two words were:

“Friction point.”

It was in that moment when I first heard those two words that I fully understood the importance of clear and concise language.

Thirty minutes later, after driving a few laps around some local city blocks I exited the driving instructor’s car and thanked him.

In the next several days, after arriving home from my night shift at 4:00 a.m. I would practise my new skills by circling the pre-dawn city streets over and over until I could change gears without even thinking about it.

That was 28 years ago.

That was my first lesson on the importance of well chosen words. Those two words superseded the thousands and thousands of words I had to listen to over the past ten years until I finally and clearly could understand how to drive a standard transmission.

Ever since then, whenever I am trying to explain something to someone as a mother, union representative, health and safety advocate, or friend, I am always confident that my listener will be able to understand anything that I am trying to convey, as long as I choose the right words.

The fewer words the better.

Now twenty-eight years later, if it were possible, there are two words of my own that I would like to say to to my well spoken driving instructor.

Those two words would be:

“Thank you.”

 

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