Archive for May, 2012

Can you drive a stick?

May 17, 2012 4 comments

Growing up, I always thought that driving was easy. I watched my parents carefully and it seemed to me that all they did was move the steering wheel around a bit. Easy enough, I can do that. I got my permit when I was 15 and had signed up for driver’s education during the summer. Since I played sports during the school year, this seemed the easiest time to do it. I would go to basketball camp and then head straight over for driver’s ed.

My cousin went to the same basketball camp that I did and since he was a few years older than I was, he drove himself to camp. One day after camp I convinced him to let me try and drive his Gremlin up and down the parking lot one time. The trick was, it was a stick shift and I had never tried one before. But, trying new things has never been a problem for me, so I jumped in and tried to drive off. If you have ever driven a car with manual transmission, you can guess what happened. I killed it. At this point my cousin must have had visions of his Gremlin blowing up, so he stepped in and stopped me from trying again. And my first shot at learning to drive a stick shift was cut short.

My next opportunity came after I had my license. It was after school and my friends and I were hanging out by our cars before we headed home. I was driving my Chevelle (which you can read about here). It was already running. My best friend decided that he would take it for a spin. Without asking me, he jumped in and drove off. He told me later that he wasn’t worried about me driving off in his car because he knew that I couldn’t drive a stick.

Well, you can guess what I did. I jumped in and tried to drive off in his little 70’s Honda Civic (they look like an egg to me. Of course I killed it the first time. But the second time, I took off with no problem. I did know about how to shift because when I was 5, my mom used to let me shift for her when she was driving my grandparents 58 Nash Rambler. It was a three on the tree (meaning that the gearshift was on the steering column). Using this vast experience of shifting, I was able to keep the Hodna going (it was a Hodna because when he had it repainted, they put the letters back on out of order).

I came back to the school a few minutes later and my friend was shocked when I drove up. He asked me when I learned to drive a stick and I told him that I just got done teaching myself. He insisted on seeing for himself, so we drove around for a few minutes to prove to him that I could.

Since then, I have driven quite a few cars that have had a stick shift. When my wife and I moved to France, all of the cars we had available to drive were stick shifts. Since she didn’t know how to drive one, she left the driving to me. Towards the end of our time in France, we took a trip down to the south with our six month old daughter. One day we were sitting in a parking lot outside a large grocery store in the outskirts of Dijon. I went into the store to find us some lunch while she fed the Princess.

It took awhile for me to come out because I found a sandwich cart inside the store and I had to wait in line to get our sandwiches made. Unbeknownst to me, it had started raining pretty hard outside. Jen had finished up feeding Princess and was thinking that I was waiting in the store for the rain to let up. So, she decided to drive up and pick me up. Meanwhile, I finish up getting our food and start out through the rain to the far end of the parking lot where I thought our car was at.

Imagine my surprise to see the car drive by heading the opposite direction in the next aisle over. I tried my best to run after her, but I was carrying all the lunch food without a shopping bag (you have to provided your own in France and I hadn’t brought one in). I chase her down the row, and she turns and goes up the next one. I try and chase her down that one and she keeps going! She didn’t see me for a bit. So here I am, running up and down the parking lot and getting soaked. Eventually she saw me and stopped. We had a great laugh when I got in.

“Here I come to save the day!”

Interestingly enough, that was the only time that Jen drove a stick. Even though we have had a few cars that have a manual transmission, she really has no desire to drive a stick. But that is okay, I enjoy driving a stick and we have other cars that she loves to drive (including this car).

I can truly say that I taught myself how to drive a stick.

Categories: Driving, The Fam