Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Give me the gears - manually!

Ever since learning to drive at age 16 I have always driven cars with manual transmissions. Getting an automatic was simply not on.

Learning to drive in Winnipeg (aka Winterpeg) where winters were brutal, I have never forgotten the many times my Morris Mini-Minor (looked just like this right down to the colour) or VW Beetle got stuck in snow drifts and I got out by gently rocking the car back and forth by repetitive shifts from first to reverse and back again. Automatic gears just cannot create the same rocking rhythm.

Travelling and renting cars in N.A. creates a bit of a problem as all the cars have automatic transmissions. I suppose there are sports cars with manual shifts but I have never paid the extra money to rent them.

Now it's dead simple to use automatic gears as all the work is done for you. But it's still awkward as I found out again last week while renting a car in my old home town of Winnipeg. First, backing out of the rental company stall was a bit nerve wracking. The Toyota Yaris had a transmission configuration that I had not seen before (more choices) and also had notches that the stick had to be maneuvered into, rather than simple choices all in a line. The automatic gear stick was in park, so I had to maneuver it to reverse and slowly back up, followed by the trial-and-error of discovering where first gear was. Finally I saw that it must be the slot labelled 1-3, at least I hoped so. The car lurched and jerked a bit before I got it right. On my first try what looked like the the notch belonging to gears 1-3 was not! Anyone watching would have thought I was learning to use a manual gear shift!

Once on the road, my left foot kept wanting to stomp on the non-existent clutch and my right hand desperately wanted to shift gears. A few times I grabbed the automatic gear shift and almost shifted before realizing it was a yikes-no! situation. Seems stupid, but this created just enough stress to make driving uncomfortable.

In the past I have encountered a few car salesmen who took great pains to let me know that the used car I was thinking of buying had a MANUAL shift. Left unspoken but implied were the words,
  • "Of course, being a woman, there is no way you would know how to shift gears manually."
The assumption always ticked me off and still does.

Now if you are like many people who do not know how to shift gears manually, see

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Oh, now I'm all nostalgic for the good old days and our Beetles that included the red one that had been in a fire. It didn't look great, but it could really poop along. I too used to crave only manual shift cars because I had a horror of the power transmission conking out and being left unable to even steer.

    I liked the instruction video, but found the incredibly long-toed boots distracting. ;-)


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