Monday, March 19, 2007

Musings on Stick Shifts

This morning I was driving my van. As I prepared to pull out from the stop sign near my house, I reached for the gear shift, and had to stop myself as I remembered that the van has an automatic transition, not a manual one.
My parents' cars were always automatics. I learned to drive in one and in fact had no concept of even how a stick shift worked until I was 21 and buying my first car...and then the car I could afford was a 12 year old Honda Civic LX--a stick. I was petrified the first few times I drove it. I even considered putting a big sign in the back window that said "stick-shift student driver--STAY BACK!"
As a child, I didn't really even know what a stick shift was. I guess most kids don't. I remember a friend leaving her orange VW bus ("The Great Pumpkin") with us while she traveled abroad for some months. I was about 7 at the time, and I guess for some reason my mother needed to use the vehicle to go somewhere. She was nervous, because, while she understood how to drive the thing, she hadn't done it much. So she figured she should practice before going out on real roads. We had a 1/4 mile driveway, so she used this to practice...I remember sitting on the couch, watching her out the window, watching her drive back and forth and back and forth, and feeling confused about why she was trying to go as fast as she could. I remember her smiling and saying something about "got into third" so I guessed that was good. But I had no clue what it meant. Retrospectively, getting into third gear on 1/4 mile of gravel isn't too bad!
So I, She Who Drives An Automatic (and had done so for 5 years), graduated from college and got a stick-shift. Then I got engaged to a man who also drove a stick-shift. Then we got married and sold my car and we both drove the same stick-shift. After a mere two years we bought a mini-van which was not a stick-shift...and what do you know, I can't seem to drive the thing without reaching down to shift...

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