Monday, January 13, 2014

The Lost Art of Driving a Stick

She's a bit young and short for this as just her tiptoes touch the ground but she enjoyed it for a while

Sunny watching Josh intently
We watched Allie for a bit yesterday while Josh gave Julie a driving lesson. He wants to replace his car with yet another car with a manual transmission (better mileage, more control, better performance,cheaper..)but Julie would not be able to drive it in a pinch. As time goes on, less and less people in the US can drive a stick. (in Europe though, it seems that every car is a rent an automatic is prohibitive). She seemed to do OK but is not ready to go out by herself or worse, with Allie.

I learned to drive on a stick with the world's worst teacher, my father. We did have a car at the time with an automatic transmission where I could have had learned the basics such as steering and braking but no...he didn't want me messing up that car. He failed to tell me about the 'friction point' where you need to hold the clutch until the car gets moving. Plus he liked to set the engine idle at the lowest possible setting so not to burn too much gas waiting at stoplights. This made things even trickier. Basically I taught myself while trying to zone out him screaming at me (I was used to that). At least that car, a Ford, had something called 'synchromesh' transmission meaning you could downshift to first without coming to a complete stop. The driver's ed car did not (a Chrysler) but its idle speed was set so high one needn't worry about giving it gas until you were well on your way (one less pedal to worry about). My friend had a late 50s or early 60s Volkswagen van. That was a tricky vehicle to drive requiring superhuman strength to depress the clutch and to shift gears. I even drove a jeep, a real one not like those in name only today. To engage the 4 wheel drive feature,one had to get out of the jeep and do something manually to the axle.

I've taught many people how to drive a stick over the years including Steve and Josh. Growing up in NYC, Steve's family rarely had a car. He didn't learn to drive until he was in his 20s and out in the work force. My only failure to teach was Shanna. We bought her a second hand car to drive to school not even considering that it being a stick might pose a problem. Not even the shame of driving a minivan instead (heaven forbid, going on a bus though we had Naomi go by bus given that I believed she was too immature to drive at 16..much less 18)was enough to motivate her. I haven't even tried to teach Naomi though she seemed irritated that Josh taught Julie before teaching her.

We haven't had a stick shift here for a while excepting when we trade cars with Josh so he can get work done on it. We rented one for a week when we were in France and Germany but I did the driving as I get used to driving different cars more quickly plus I had driven in France before (different considerations there).
It might have been useful for Steve to have a car in England where he was for a month but a stick-shift on the left side plus very narrow roads scared even me.

I've been busy with my projects. I watched the Golden Globes last night with a friend. It was fun making fun of the dresses. Worst? Lena Dunham's with those tiny pointy boobs. Best Cate Blanchett with that black lacy number.

Even though it has been above freezing for the last few days, ice persists. And we will have the polar vortex return tomorrow. Hate winter. Maybe I will go to a yoga class later.

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