Getting it in Gear

I have this list of things I think I really ought to learn to do, or should change in my habits. For example, some of the latter include an average of one “me” night per week, or healthier eating habits. The former include things like “learn to ski” and “learn to drive a stick shift”.

Today was my first driving lesson: stick shift. It was in a Subaru which was fancier than any other Subaru I’d been in, and the car itself had been driven to the arctic circle. It had a good deal more computers and junk in it one would expect of a Subaru.

It also had a stick. On the stick was a little diagram, like the three-man Henkel’s diagram, except this one had little numbers (1-5) and an R. We didn’t mess much with that. Instead, there is this other thing it had: a clutch. I can understand the physics of a clutch just fine.

Practical application, however, found me lacking. Safely nestled in the semi-empty parking area in the back of Bellevue Square, my instructor (hm, let’s call him G, to protect the innocent) had me, before starting the car, have my left foot fully extended to fully depress the clutch. Then, my right foot fully extended to depress the brake. Then, and only then, could I start the car. The image you should get here is of someone trying desperately to force their feet through the floorboards, white knuckling the wheel.

At this point, I should note, I hadn’t moved or done anything, except for starting the car.

With the car started, there was oration on how I would carefully lift my foot off of the brake, carefully put said foot (the right foot – Dexter) on the gas so as to get to 1,500 RPM, and then carefully remove my foot (left foot – Sinister) from the clutch, and roll forward.

This I did, but in no way shape or form was it elegant. It was a bit lurchy, although I didn’t stall the car there. I stalled it on the next go, and then at the turn I had to do, and then a third time. The total of stalls were about 3, the total of start/stop practices were roughly 12 (4 laps, 3 each) plus some extra little ones at the end. I learned many things, including:

  • Wearing high-heeled boots is not an intelligent driving choice when dealing with a stick.
  • That little wiggly thing people do with the stick actually has purpose.
  • You can tell if you are revving the car up too much because it sounds different.
  • You can tell if you are at the point where you will not stall because it sounds different.
  • Mall security will wait patiently behind you while you practice driving until your instructor waves them by, whereupon they will rev past you at 40 mph, to illustrate their point.
  • Thirty minutes go fast when you are clenching every muscle below your waist and at the end of your arms.
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