I’ve heard it said that once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget. I hoped the same rule applied to driving a stick shift car. I learned on an old army Jeep when I was 16 years old. My grandmother quit driving and let me use her car when I was 20, and I was 57 when my brother gave me his older car. All told, I had driven a stick about five or six years. This week I was the only one in the family who could drive son John $’s car from the rental home to our house. Would I be able to do it? It would take an hour and a half, starting on steep mountain roads and ending on the interstate highway.
As anyone knows who has tried it, the tricky part is getting the vehicle to move smoothly when you start up. One foot presses lightly on the gas pedal as the other eases the clutch out. If you don’t get it right, you lurch forward as your car moves like a bucking bronco. $’s driveway was so steep that all I did was keep my foot on the brake until we got down to the road. Because of the angle, I couldn’t see the road on the right, and $ said either “Gun it!” or “Floor it!” Talk about pressure! If a car had come around that curve fast, I needed to be moving. Everything was fine. No car came, and we didn’t lurch down the road.
I didn’t expect the trouble I had. I was used to three or four forward gears, not five. Almost every time I shifted to third, I went too far and ended in fifth. Both $ and I could tell by the sound that it wasn’t right, so I’d press the clutch in as he shifted the lever with his left hand. That’s the way we made it home. One of us would suggest shifting up or down, and I’d say, “Clutch in.”
Sadie was calm, sleeping on $’s lap much of the way. She sat up and was alert when he went in a store to get cigarettes. I’m going to let Sadie rate my driving, and I expect the rating to be “Boring”.