Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fun With Stickshift

One of the criteria that I searched for on my new car was manual transmission. Problem: I'd never had a car with a manual transmission before. Sure, I'd learned how to drive stick a few years ago, on two separate occasions, with a friend and his rental cars when he came to visit. I was functional, albeit imperfect. But that was a long time ago, and each car is different.

You might ask, "Why did you get a manual shift ? Why not automatic ?" Truth be told, I could have easily bought an automatic. There are tons of them out there, and many were available a few months ago when I started searching. But I just couldn't buy a sporty convertible like this without a stickshift. It just seemed wrong.

Unlike some people who simply want to get from A to B, I want to actually feel the car. I want to experience the drive. I want to be connected to the car and to the road. You just can't do that in an automatic. And admittedly, the thought of dropping it down a gear and taking off like a bat out of hell on a freeway merge ramp invigorates me.

I want to feel the exhiliration of reaching freeway speeds in a few seconds flat. I want to experience the wind blowing through my hair as I cruise along the way. I want to feel the drive - not just reach the destination.

Automatic just would not do. I had no choice but to find a vehicle with manual shift.

So on Sunday, Danny took me out to the big tech-company parking lot near my house, and we practiced with my new car. For two hours, we drove back and forth, stopping and starting, driving and shifting, till I felt I had the hang of it.

And yesterday, in a moment of extreme bravery, I decided to drive it to work. I knew I wouldn't be perfect. I knew I'd have trouble. But the only way to improve is to get better, right ?

That morning, I drove the 11-mile, surface-street-only trip to work. At lunch, I picked up my friend, went to the Pho place, dropped him off, and went back to work. I also drove to softball (in traffic), and then home.

Stall count: 5
Honked at count: 1

Feeling of merging onto the freeway at high speeds with ease, as the seat warmer toasted my frozen butt: Priceless.

It can only get better with time.

I'm looking forward to it.


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