I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging in July. I could blame the heat. Or all the editing. But really, I just got a bit lazy. Anyway, I’m back today with a little story about learning to drive a stick shift. Enjoy.
Growing up in the United States, I didn’t know anyone who had a manual transmission in their car. I knew stick shifts existed from television, because television NEVER lies to us, but I thought a stick shift was something only truck drivers or race drivers or maybe the Dukes of Hazzard had to deal with (Note to self: Google whether The General Lee was a stick shift). When I learned to drive, I learned the way I thought everyone did – on a manual transmission.
When I went to Germany for my senior year of high school, I discovered everyone in Germany drove a manual transmission. Not a huge deal. I wasn’t allowed to drive anyway, which annoyed the heck out of me. Back then – you know, in the dark ages – the driver’s license you received at sixteen wasn’t probationary, but I still wasn’t allowed to drive in Germany as I was only seventeen. (Most European countries then required you to be eighteen to drive. The Netherlands is now experimenting with letting seventeen-year-olds get probationary licenses.)
My boyfriend at the time decided, without any prompting from me at all *winks*, to try to teach me to drive a stick shift. At which point I learned what everyone else in the world already knew, you never let someone with whom you are in a relationship try to teach you to drive. The admittedly amateur lessons didn’t last long. No worries. No one drives a stick shift anyway, right?
Then, I joined the military. Guess what? Not driving a stick shift was still not a problem. The military-grade HMMWV (aka Humvee) is an automatic. (They also roll quite easily, but that’s a story for another day.) But then I found myself back in Germany. I was stationed with NATO where we drove Mercedes SUVs with – you guessed it – a manual transmission.
After taking a written driver’s test, my sergeant ‘tested’ me to ensure I could drive a stick shift. He started by asking if I could drive a stick. My response? Sure. (I was a bit cocky back then.) This supposed check consisted of me driving from one base to another. Well, I ground the gears like the badass I was, but I didn’t stall the car so I passed.
Here’s where I ran into a tiny problem. I couldn’t actually drive the thing. And, oh yeah, I bought a car that was a stick shift as well. What was I thinking? I was thinking it was no big deal. And it wasn’t. Until it was.
As military police, we had several different outposts we needed to patrol. Patrolling in a car you can’t properly drive was probably not my smartest idea ever. One day I was driving on the autobahn – you know that carnival ride on which you can drive as fast as you want in Germany – and keeping it in fourth gear because I had yet to try fifth gear. *Hangs head in shame* My Danish male colleague kept egging me on to try to put it in fifth gear. I think he was tired of hearing the engine whine. Finally, I decided to try it. Guess what? It was no big deal. That’s the moment I consider as the one in which I actually finally learned to drive a stick shift.
And now? Now, Europeans are falling on the automatic band wagon. Not me. Once I figured out the whole how-to-shift-without-grinding-gears-or-stalling-the-car thing, I fell in love with driving a stick. So, my current car is a stick shift as was the previous one and the one before that… you get my drift.