Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It happens every so often and it always makes me smile.

I saw a lady I know, mother of a teenager, mention the other day her son was learning to "drive a stick," which is slang for learning to drive a car with a manual transmission.  Literalists would think that the poor kid is trying to get around town on a broken branch, and how would that look?

She did mention that he stalled the car once. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

I learned to drive on a 1960 Volkswagen, one of the first cars equipped with "260" air conditioning (roll down 2 windows and drive at 60 mph.) It had a manual transmission...four on the floor, plus a handy reverse gear to get out of parking spaces and driveways.

What's really handy about a manual transmission, and I don't know that many people realize this, but you can start a stick-equipped car with a dead battery by getting it to the top of a small hill, letting it roll down in neutral with the clutch engaged and the transmission in 1st gear, and then popping the clutch once the car gains a little speed. Of course, getting your brokedown car to the top of the hill requires three other guys... I did this plenty of times before I came up with the scratch to buy a battery from the Pep Boys.

And this was so long ago, Manny was still smoking!

Now, the only Manny who matters is Machado, and I don't know what he drives, but I think everyone should learn to drive a stick...and then not drive a stick.  Sure, it's fun when you first get a truck or car, yanking that lever, pushing in the clutch, letting out that clutch...and that's just your left leg.  Your right leg is working the gas.  Your right arm is working the radio or holding a soda, and there is some steering being done by the left hand, which is also holding a taco or an electric razor or a mascara wand.

And then, after a month or less, shifting gears every three seconds is far less fun than it was when you were playing Indy Champ video games, and you are ready for an automatic transmission.  

But you won't forget how to drive a stick! I once had to borrow a buddy's truck to haul home some paneling from Hechinger's, and first I had to jump start it, and then I remembered how to shift, after 17 years of being shiftless. 

It's like falling off a bike. You never forget how!

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