Learning To Drive the New Stick Shift–Lesson 1

Soooo.  Yesterday marked Day 1 of Learning To Drive The New Stick Shift.

Actually, I’ve had lessons before, but either I chickened out and never finished learning, or Darling Husband chickened out and never finished teaching.  I’ll explain.

Darling Husband and I used to work together in Hunt Valley Maryland at 201 International Circle right next to the Hunt Valley Mall.  Here, look at this diagram.

The diagram pretty much tells the sad, sad tale without me having to write a single word.

As if that’ll stop me.

As you can see, there is a Light Of Doom at the bottom of the Mountain of Dizzying Heights.  The heights were so dizzying that anyone wanting to drive all the way to the top of the mountain has to remember to bring their own oxygen.

The Light of Doom was always red, in all directions, at all times.  (See diagram)  Still, the cars managed to get through in a frenzy of speed, aided by the usual adrenalin of trying to get to work on time, but never, ever early.  Once through the light, pretty much all of the cars then needed to make the Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn to get to all the office buildings.

Pity the poor fool who couldn’t make the Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn on the Mountain of Dizzying Heights!  Oh, pity me, Horatio!  Pity me well!

Making the Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn wasn’t as simple as it sounded.  Coming down from the Mountain of Dizzing Heights were the poor hapless souls who lived at the top of the hill, but worked at the bottom.  Any driver coming down the hill would have quickly burned through his or her brake pads during the first 2000 feet of the dizzying descent.  Put some wings on those cars and by the time they were nearing the bottom of the Mountain, they had built up enough speed to fly to work rather than drive.

And there I was.  A fresh-faced, guileless New Stick Shift Driver.

We were in the brand new blue Ford Escort wagon that Darling Husband had bought.  We’d been putting in our time in parking lots and suburban neighborhoods and now Darling Husband was confident that I could drive us to work.

It was going well.  We were 29 minutes into our 30 minute commute and the building was in sight.

But…the Light of Doom!  The Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn!  The Mountain of Dizzying Heights!  The out of control cars zooming by!

I got stuck at the Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn.  Every time I’d get the car going, a brakeless car would zoom down the hill and I’d have to stop.  Or a car behind me would get fed up and wing his car around me and I’d have to stop.

We sat there for 14 hours, with me trying to make the Wickedly Dicey Left Hand Turn on the Mountain of Dizzying Heights, with cars zooming and winging and honking until Darling Husband and I switched spots.

After that, I chickened out and stopped driving the stick.

But then!  We moved to the quiet farmland of Pennsylvania.  I have sat in the middle of certain roads around here for a good half hour taking photographs without a single car passing me.  Honestly.  No, wait.  That’s not entirely true.  I haven’t merely sat on the roads, I have actually lain down in the middle of roads taking pictures for 30 minutes without a single car coming by.

This is the place to learn a stick.  No zooming, winging or beeping around here.

So when Darling Husband bought a used car with a manual transmission, I thought my time had come.  It was the ’98 Dodge Stratus that we just traded in.  It was 8 years old when we bought it.

We started in the parking lot, as usual.  But this time, it only took about two screeches of me grinding the gears before Darling Husband popped out of the passenger seat and said, “This car is too old!  You’ll kill it!  Out!  Out, I say!”  And he never let me drive it again.

But he promised that if we ever had a newer car with gears/transmission that weren’t already 8 years old, he’d teach me.

And so here we are.  Back in the parking lot.

Darling Husband was pretty calm as he taught me yesterday.  His job is pretty stressful and he’s learned calming techniques in the past few years.

While I was driving, I watched him turn off his normal ADHD Frenzy Mode and turn on his Easy Listening Calm Mode.  His voice was slow and quiet and soothing as he gave instructions:

“Foot on the brake. Foot on the clutch. Car into first. Give it some gas.Let out the clutch.”

Lurch, lurch, stall.

“Foot on the brake. Foot on the clutch. Car into first. Give it some gas. Let out the clutch. Reach into the cubby on the door. Hand me the squeezie thing.”

Darling Husband has one of those forearm strengtheners that you squeeze in your hand.  Five minutes into the lesson, I was drenched in sweat and exhausted from all the concentrating, and Darling Husband had a nice buff forearm.

So…if you live in the farmlands of Pennsylvania and you see a little orange car drifting backwards down a hill while trying to make a left hand turn, give me a little wave as you wing by, and honk your horn so I know it’s you.

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4 thoughts on “Learning To Drive the New Stick Shift–Lesson 1

  1. When my Honda was brand new, I couldn’t drive it home from the dealer because I couldn’t drive stick shift. That was so sad… and then, I hated learning how to do it- I would stall & drift at lights all the time. But, that was back in 1994… I finally caught on & obviously, I didn’t kill the car because I am still driving it now. So, I know you’ll get it!

    It really is worth it- you will loooove driving down those country roads, shifting gears like nobody’s business. 😉 Have fun!

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