Like all Baby Boomers, I learned to drive on cars that don’t even exist anymore (parallel parking in a 20’ station wagon? Sure, we all learned to parallel park in cars that make today’s Chevy Suburban look like a Mini.) So when my beloved '95 Taurus decided to give out at the same time my savings account did, I decided to save a few bucks and get a car with a manual transmission.
Oh sure. I’ve driven sticks before. My first wife loved manual transmissions, and spent the last year of our marriage trying to get me comfortable with her car. Mrs. Kunilou did the same thing with her cute little Datsun. And in fact, I did drive a stick almost exclusively for a year. 20 years ago.
But hell, it’s like riding a bicycle, right? You never forget how. Just find the friction point, ease into the accelerator and you’re off.
It’s been two weeks now, and my shifting has settled into two patterns – lurching and lugging.
Lurching is for first and second gears. That’s me, hopping away from the stoplight, leaving little strips of tire rubber behind. Lugging is reserved for third through fifth gears, although it’s gotten a little better since I learned to shift from second to third, rather than pulling the stick all the way over to fifth.
I’m gripping the steering wheel so hard with my left hand that I’m developing tendonitis.
So if you happen to pull up behind a drak blue Pontiac Sunbird, particularly if it’s at a stoplight on a hill, do yourself a favor and stop about a car length behind.