When my son and his wife were visiting us for the holiday, we got into a discussion about driving. In particular, we were discussing the differences between driving an automatic car versus driving a car with a stick shift. Once before, I had said that I never learned how to drive a stick shift although both of my sisters had learned when they were young. Further I said that car dealers had offered to teach me to drive a stick shift, but I had always declined since I had no intention of destroying a clutch or two in the process so I have always purchased a car with an automatic shift despite the extra cost to me.
My first car, which was a Hondamatic Accord, was about the only exception, and even that wasn't truly a car that shifted in the typical sense (with a clutch). It just shifted from 1st gear to Drive by pushing the gear shift up at about 35 miles per hour, but I digress. Because I had the "fun and my perceived coolness" of shifting, it still remains one of my favorite cars.
At this point, Mark told me, once again, that he could me teach to learn to drive a stick shift...that I wasn't too old to learn, and further, that he was willing to teach me. And right then, too! My usual arguments of destroying his clutch were bogus in his opinion since he had work to do on his car anyway.
With that, we, Mark, his wife Emily, who wanted to see the show, and I , proceeded to his car which he drove over to a nearby parking lot. He patiently explained the use of the clutch and easing off and all the other things that go into moving a car forward when driving a stick-shift car. Getting into the driver's seat, I started off by pressing down the clutch and moving the gear from neutral into first gear and slowly driving away. From there, I once again pressed down the clutch to the floor and shifted into second gear without any trouble. In fact, Emily was extremely disappointed with my apparent ease of coordinating the clutch and the gearshift. She wanted me to have difficulty like she had had (she still doesn't like the shifting part herself, she later declared) when learning, but I digress once again. I drove around and around in a circle making donuts, but never with enough speed to get into third.
Mark had me stop, and repeat the shifting, and again, it went well, especially if there was snow under the tires. That is, until he suggested going onto the road for a spin. From there it deteriorated into what he called bogging, which is a bumping, grinding motion with starts and stops, basically stops. Emily loved it! "This is more like it!" she said.
For me, even though I didn't realize it at the time, I started using choice words and lots of them. It was a nightmare to say the least. However, Mark was patient, and he made me keep trying. We made it about ten feet on the road until I decided that it wasn't for me, but Mark decided to show me again as he demonstrated the technique of using the clutch while shifting. He drove a few blocks towards the lake, shifting up and then down-shifting at the intersections, patiently explaining what he was doing. We finally parked and took a short walk on the pier before returning to the car.
"Now, it's your turn," he said. "I'll back out, but you are driving us home."
Suffice it to say, I tried to get out of it, but Mark wouldn't have it. After reversing, he, indeed, put the car in Park, and we switched seats. I drove home, which was all of two blocks, maybe, lurching and bogging the whole way home. I would take the car out of neutral into first and then shift it into second and I barely made it go. Hitting the corner with a STOP sign, I shifted back and forth between neutral and then first. Finally, I made it around the corner, and the last two hundred feet or so, I stayed in first including going up the driveway until the car finally shuddered to a stop. There the car remained: parked! For me, the lesson was over.
When I asked him how he learned to drive a stick shift, he said he learned by driving up and back on his driveway at home. He bogged, he did burn-outs, he did everything I had done, but, unlike me, he persisted.
And, he has become very handy with the cars he owns. He has made manifolds; he has installed turbo-charging on, at least, one of his cars (he now has three); he has even purchased and drives a right-hand car. He is pretty amazing when it comes to his cars, and even more, he is a patient teacher, and maybe some day, I will take another lesson from him and finally learn how to drive a car with a stick shift. That is, if he'll risk it!
PS. Thanks Mark!!
Causes Nancy Smith Supports
Doctors without Borders
American Diabetes Association