Skip to content

Learning to Drive a Manual All Over Again

May 10, 2011

Let’s be frank. I never mastered the darn stick before anyway. I was always pretty jumpy on the shifts, and never felt comfortable starting up in 1st. I learned on my dad’s 1984 (?) Nissan 4×4 pickup. It was taupe. The kind of taupe that was super hot in the early 80’s – you know the color. It had “4×4” blazoned on the sides, in letters so big they nearly covered the entire door. It was a proud proclamation that this was, you know, a REAL truck. It was the first truck my dad had bought new. He loved that truck.

I was on my way to Canada indefinitely and knew that a car would be a big hassle, so I sold my car to a friend. However, I sold it four months before I left, so I needed a way to get around for a short period of time.  My dad kindly offered the Nissan.

“It’s a stick,” he said. “You’ll have to learn.”

I welcomed the challenge. I’d always meant to learn, so this was my opportunity. I had hoped to get really good with it, but after the first week I was just hoping I could get down the road with it. I was not what they call “a natural”. Of course, I still blamed the truck for my jumpiness. The clutch was VERY picky about when to put the gas on in 1st. Super, super picky. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) I decided I only needed to get through four months, and then my days as a driver of any kind of vehicle would be behind me for the foreseeable future.

Almost ten years, in the end. When I moved to Florida in November, I bought a CR-V off my mom.  My husband joined me about a month ago and now we needed to get a second car.

I began my search in earnest right before Baba came back from India. I wanted an inappropriate car. I always had sensible cars before, but it was time to reach in and pull out that bad ass, race car driving woman who had to take a ten-year nap. I knew it had to be a manual transmission. How else could I drive like Danica Patrick?

After a long, but fun, search I narrowed it down to leasing a Mini Cooper. We went to two different dealers. I haggled, I bargained, I stoically asked for freebies. Ultimately, I feel good about the deal we got. Now I had to drive the damn thing home.

Wait. Now? Yeah, now… … … Oh.

I got it home without killing it, actually.  I even drove the next few days without killing it. (Except that one time coming off the highway, but hills don’t count on your first day, right?)  My brother, Will, gave me some helpful tips and I practiced going around my complex. In no time at all I felt very confident. I was shifting into first like a champ. Shifting from 2nd-3rd like a pro.

I had this thing licked. Texpat Starling: Future Formula 1 Champion

About the fourth day or so, I decided it was OK to turn on my shiny new satellite radio.  That was when the trouble began.  Sirius Radio is to blame this time, and Howard Stern.  I don’t listen to Howard Stern, but it seems like a good idea to throw Howard Stern in the mix when you’re placing blame somewhere.


The radio was turned up, and I wasn’t paying attention.  I killed it at a light and then I got nervous.  It’s been downhill (pun intended) since then. If I’m not thinking about it, I do great. But the second I think about how there are all these cars behind me I freak. They all want to go. Go now, go fast, now. NOW!

I can’t do that. What if they get mad? What if I kill the car? What if I fail at this manual driving stuff?! Who am I kidding? I’m not a race car driver. I’m a gal from the sticks who never learned to drive a stick when she was young and had a pliable mind keen on learning new tricks. Holy clutch disk, Texpat!!!!

For the next three years




It’s gotten to the point where I truly dread driving. Monday morning, I got in the car and killed it twice on the way to work. I skipped lunch, because I was dreading it that much. Finally, when it came time to go home, I sat in the car, and gave myself a stern lecture.

“This is it,” said I. “No more fear. No more worry. No more stress. Just make those suckers behind you wait, take your time, and you’ll be fine.  Screw ’em. Two seconds never killed anyone.”  I drove home with no troubles.

So here I am. I have a car that I love but am often times afraid to drive. It has to end. I have to get better. I’m just genuinely scared that one year from now, I’ll still be slow on the start. I know that is probably silly, but still them’s the facts, people. I have no idea when I’ll get better, but I’m holding out hope even if I’m not sure I have faith.

Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and planning and dreaming. That’s all I have for now. It’ll have to do.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2011 9:35 am

    Oh, man. This sounds just like me! I had to drive Aaron’s Nissan to work today, and it’s a stick. I stress out every time I shift, but especially when I’m in first. I think I probably hold the clutch in for too long, but I’d rather do that than kill it.

    And, really, waiting 2 seconds never did kill anybody. You just keep pep-talkin’.

  2. May 11, 2011 12:57 pm

    It will come. One day you will realize you aren’t even thinking about it.

    A long time ago I had a truck that was standard and I got good at it. I had to drive the fire trucks and they are standard. Once in a while now I drive Ralph’s car. I’m pretty sure he is irritated because I can shift smoother than he can. If I don’t think about it when starting up I will kill it though, because I drive a stick so seldom now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: