14 April 2012

Manual Transmission, or Why I Don't Want You Driving My Car

I don't want you driving my car. It's not you, really. It's me. It's sort of me.

But seriously. I freak out. I will sit in the passenger seat with my feet pressed hard against the floor. My hands will grip the door handle so tightly the blood will drain from my knuckles. I will inhale sharply between my teeth every time you turn, making a distracting hissing sound. You will probably want to crash my car just so you don't have to put up with one more second of me in the passenger's seat.

I'm sure you're a fantastic driver. You're probably a much better driver than me. I'm sure. But look, I love this car, okay? It got hit once when I was pulling out of a parallel parking spot, and I was crying over it. I'm really not the sobbing type. You don't want to see that. I'm a really unattractive crier.

I have a silver Mazda3, and I love it. It's a manual (or stick shift) and I quite like driving a manual. I feel like I have more control of it. Is that really true? I don't know. But even if it's a placebo effect, I like that. I also feel like I get better gas mileage. Placebo? Unsure. Don't care. I do know that it drives really well.

I learned to drive a manual for a "Life Skills" final project for my senior AP English class. Our teacher was worried that, as "smart kids," we were missing life skills. Some people learned to do laundry or ride a motorcycle. I learned to drive a manual. My family had one: a blue VW bug with tinted windows and a sunroof. It was adorable and very, very cool. I wasn't even the kind of kid who cared much about cool (see: "my senior AP English class," above) but somewhere deep in my heart I thought manual cars, and this bug in particular, were pretty damn cool. In fact, I wasn't super-excited about learning to drive it because I didn't want to drive it to school and have to leave it unattended in the school parking lot. That's how cool I thought this car was.

But I had been learning how to drive it, so I just picked up the pace to do it for the project. This was ultimately a good thing because the red Pontiac GM I had been driving gave up the ghost with a week of high school left, and the VW bug got a week of thankfully uneventful high-school-parking-lot time.

I didn't have a car in college, but whenever I was home, I'd drive the bug around. My brother and sister couldn't drive it, so I'd always leave one of the automatic cars for them. It actually got to the point where I hadn't driven an automatic in so long that I once spent a whole minute trying to find the clutch in an automatic car. I still need a few minutes to adjust to an automatic. My left foot gets twitchy, which is less than ideal in a car where the closest pedal to the left foot is the brake.

Then, I figured out that actually most people don't know how to drive a manual. Or at least, most people my age don't. So not only is it a sort-of-cool skill, it gives me a pretty neat 'out.'

It's not that I wouldn't let you drive my car, you see? It's just that it's a manual. And you can't drive a manual. Clutches are hardReally. Would I lie to you!

It's not you. It's not me. (It's sort of me.) It's that you can't drive a manual.

Now You!
How do you feel about other people driving your car? Or about driving other peoples' cars? (I dislike this as well. The last time I enthusiastically drove someone else's car, it was because it was only a short trip down the road and it was a manual that I was extremely curious to compare to my car.)

P.S. I apparently don't have pictures handy of any of these cars. I also hardly know anything about cars: I didn't know the difference between a sedan and a coupe until last year (and just now had to look up the spelling of coupe), and only learned the difference with much resistance. (My young man insisted it was important knowledge. I'm still skeptical.) I don't care about cars in general. I care about my car. That's it. I don't know what most of my best friends drive. I wouldn't recognize their cars in a parking lot. I don't like driving big cars. I really dislike driving vans. I've ridden in a pickup but I've never driven one. The only thing I like about car shows is getting to sit in the models and making fun of the hideous colors. Who chooses primordial-ooze-green as the color for this year's model car? I hope I have successfully established that I am no car buff. I will probably not write about cars again.