Friday, July 13, 2007

Lamps - Casa del Prado, San Diego (June 2007)

Recently, friends of mine needed a ride to the airport on a somewhat short-notice basis. Having been in a similar situation, I gladly agreed to take them. They were willing to drive their own car, and I would simply be required to ride along to the airport, then return the car to its rightful place in their driveway. Simple enough proposition...

I arrived at their place, helped toss the luggage in the car, and hopped in the back. I brought along the latest issue of "Climbing" magazine, and browsed through it on the way, not paying attention to much else. The drive was relatively uneventful, aside from the occasionally stop-and-go rush hour traffic on Interstate 10.

We pulled up to the passenger unloading dock, promptly unloaded, exchanged the keys, and bid each other adieu.

At this point, I opened the driver's side door, maneuvered myself into the seat, looked down, and realized I was facing an unexpected dilemma. The car had suddenly grown a stickshift. Where had that come from?!

One might expect an individual known widely as "Enlightened Fellow" to be well-versed in handling a manual transmission. "Enlightened Fellow" would like that same person to stop with the unreasonable expectations.

So, what did I do? I had options: laugh hysterically, cry uncontrollably, dash into the airport and tell my friends to drive their own silly automobile home... Tempting as all of these were, I simply told myself there was no choice but to teach myself to drive stick that very instant.

Now, I have played with cars with manual transmission before, so I had the basic concepts, but the 10 Freeway in stop-and-go rush hour traffic is not generally where most people learn to put those concepts into practice.

Pulling away from the curb was enlightening. My first attempt resulted in a giant lurch followed by a sudden whiplash-inducing halt.

"Ok, that's not how to do it."

"Let's give it a little more gas."

This resulted in another bigger lurch followed by a series of smaller, but no less attention-grabbing lurches which lasted until I had pulled out into the street and cleared the end of the airport unloading dock. I didn't even look to see who might be staring at my unusual driving style. This being Southern California, they may have just mistaken me for yet another freak in a pimped-out ride, driving with hydraulics.

Alas, the Saturn I was driving was not pimped-out in the usual sense (only in the sense that it was *me* who was "driving" it).

Because, I'm a pimp?

Ok, not funny...

Eventually, the lurching subsided, and I managed to get into gear shifting. I even made it to third gear before reaching my first stoplight. Never before had a stoplight taken on such monumental significance, though I'm well aware we're all slaves to the traffic light.

Stopping at a stoplight means that one must also commence going afterward, and if one fails to commence, one suffers the wrath of the jerk behind oneself driving his fancy automatic transmission and honking his horn with reckless abandon. Thankfully, nobody honked, and I only stalled once at any stoplight on the journey home. Still, my starts were little more graceful than my departure from the airport.

But I was still facing Interstate 10 and rush hour traffic...

I managed to navigate the onramp with relative ease, and even merging into slow-moving traffic ended successfully. However, I was growing tired of starting from a dead stop. I didn't seem to be getting much better at it, although I was managing to keep the lurches down to one with each start. Being that traffic was moving on and off the entire way home, I adopted a strategy to limit my stops. I began slowly following the car in front of me by a distance approaching 200 yards.

Now, that could beg the question, "What draws more attention to oneself? Following the car in front of you at long distance when everybody else is firmly stopped behind the car in front of them, or starting your car into motion with a giant lurch?"

Unfortunately, I can't answer that question, and really don't care. I only mentioned it at all because you were thinking it, and if you weren't you should have been.

The fact that I am now writing this is testament to my safe arrival home and successful learning to drive a stickshift. I'm now incorporating my method into a book: The Enlightened Fellow's Guide to Learning Manual Transmission: Not for Idiots.


Blogger Linz Organist said...

I had to come back and read this again. Truly brings a smile to my face. I'm proud that you now have 'driving stick' on your list of abilities.

Sunday, July 15, 2007  

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