Love on the Rocks: An Awkward Love Story

Swords Park Trail:  Billings, MT as featured on

Swords Park Trail: Billings, MT as featured on

Between my sophomore and junior year of college I started dating a guy who was a friend of a friend. We kept it pretty casual for about a month until, one beautiful summer night after a movie, we decided to…

Go rappelling.

Sandstone cliffs called the Rimrocks surround Billings, MT, the city I lived in at the time. They provide plenty of recreation opportunities including paved trails for pedestrians, a mountain bike park, and ample places for rock climbing.  There is also a spot with a carved staircase and anchor bolts that makes it easy to do some quick rappelling.  Even at 11:00pm

After retrieving climbing gear from my date’s house, we drove to the top of the Rims and parked near the stairs. Since it was so late at night, he parked his little Honda Accord facing out over the cliff so we could use the headlights to see in order to set our gear up properly.

I was climbing novice at the time so my date patiently instructed me and we took turns rappelling down the 15 ft face and hiking back up the stairs.  Naturally, there were lots of breaks to sit down, look at the city lights and just enjoy each other’s company on that beautiful night. We kind of forgot about the car.

That was, until the headlights went out, signaling that the car’s battery was not enjoying the leisurely pace of our evening.

I have no idea what time it was, but it was past midnight and there was no one around. This was pre-cell phone era.

However, my date was undeterred. His car had a manual transmission and he quickly took action, positioning the car so we had enough room to push-start it.

Ever the gentlemen, he put me in the driver’s seat to perform the quick clutch-gas maneuver required once the car had enough momentum.

I didn’t tell him that I’d never driven a stick shift. I have that problem. I don’t know if it’s pride or ego or just an overwhelming confidence that allows me to believe I can figure things out on the fly, but this was not one of those situations where that philosophy worked out for me.

After a couple failed attempts, I finally fessed up to my date.

He gave me a brief tutorial and apparently had enough confidence in me to give it one more try.

It worked!

The car started!

Did I mention we were on a cliff?

I was so elated it worked that I was celebrating, until I noticed that my date was running up alongside the car, yelling at me to stop before careening down the Rims. Naturally, my default reaction was to slam on the brake only which stalled the car. We were back at square one.

We eventually got the car started again, but we gave up all appearance of appropriate genders roles and I pushed the car while he handled the shifting.

And I did think it was nice that he was prepared to rip me out of the car before it plunged over the edge.

So I married the guy.

But I still can’t drive a stick shift.

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