Friday, August 27, 2010

Let's Learn Mission (a.k.a. stick shift)

This past week the mechanic my supervisor knows brought the vehicle I was thinking about buying to the BOE. I still wasn't sure if I would buy it but the main reason he came was so that I could learn to drive stick shift. Stick shift reminds me of some very long ago times when AJ, my cousin, was still in high school and would drive me back from the swimming pool in his Ford ranger pick up truck. He would always make me shift for him or else we wouldn't go anywhere. But what young boy wouldn't want to do stick shift? We definitely never had any problems going. That is about the extent of my stick shift knowledge unless you count the one time Nate let me drive his luxury Infiniti around the Carbondale airport parking lot. I didn't learn that much because some smarmy safety police told us to leave. As if I really wanted to damage something or Nate's car. Totally lame.

If you haven't gotten used to my flashbacks you better because this won't be the end of them. But as I was saying about learning stick shift, this mechanic dude is fairly old. Probably in his late 50s if not more. Speaks machine gun Japanese through his grimy worn down teeth. His pants stained with grease and dirt from working in the shop all day. He drives us over to a parking lot behind the BOE and then has me step into the driver seat. This is one of those situations where your Japanese truck that was carrying onions gets hit by a Japanese freight train at 60mph. The onions get pulverized over everything in the vicinity and you get shaken a bit but somehow you come out alright in the end. He asked me if I knew about the clutch and explained you don't usually drive with the left foot. After that, though, I lost my comprehension and just drove. I did fairly well cruising down the parking lot shifting or shall I say trying to shift fluidly.

The man stopped me and started laughing. He was like, "You NEED to relax! Stop holding on so tight, you have to be cooler about shifting. It isn't cool if you shift like you are scared. You have to do it lightly with one finger. I've been doing it so long I'm a pro but you need to learn to drive with style." Just imagine this all in Japanese with him laughing at the same time and you get a good approximation. I thought it was pretty funny myself. The point he was making is that I needed to let the stick fall into neutral and then move it to the next gear instead of holding onto it for dear life. This made a lot of sense and made things much easier.

He then had me drive out onto a road that goes up into the hills. I failed to push the clutch down far enough while going up hill and shifting so I killed the vehicle on a slope. He had me practice starting from being on a hill. At first I didn't understand how to feel out the clutch but it soon made sense that if you release it to a certain point the car won't roll backwards. I noticed this car was pretty slow to make it up the hill after I got going again. I had the accelerator floored. I'm not sure if this was normal or a bad sign. We went up fairly high on the road and he had me turn around. He then had me practice backing up hill which was pretty easy. He was praising me for accomplishing this much so far and was actually confident I would be fine with more practice. We rolled back down the hill and to the parking lot to practice shifting into first gear while being on a slope. At first I didn't quite understand but I nailed how to do that in no time. The old man all the more laughing and telling me how good I was becoming. We finished shortly after and he congratulated me on my efforts and told me I would be fine in no time. Even though we had a hard time communicating, I somehow learned how to drive manual with a crazy old mechanic.

I asked him to bring the price of the car down so I could buy it but he wouldn't lower it. He said he would keep looking for me though so I just have to wait a bit longer. Part of me kind of wants a manual car but then again my lazy side asks, "Do you really want that?"


travis said...

yes, yes you do

blaine said...

oh no, don't even tempt me.

you can't 5,000 miles away...

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