Monday, December 1

Driving standard

I didn't learn to drive until I was 23. I didn't have a car until I was 22, so it made sense at the time. My dad gave me his Beretta as a college graduation gift. I was, after all, going to be a working woman who needed her own wheels. The Beretta, however, was a standard transmission. "No problem," thought I. "It's better to know how to drive stick anyway." Hah! Having your mother teach you how to drive a stick-shift is without a doubt the eighth or ninth layer of hell. My Beretta was a sweetheart (oh, V-6 engine, how I miss thee), but for some reason I could not tell the difference between first and third gear. I would swear on a stack of Bibles that the damn car was in first gear, but the hideous stalling would say otherwise. I mastered the stick shift eventually, though I believe it took a few years off my mother's life. It's a skill I've been proud of ever since, and I do not like to drive automatics. They creep me out -- it's like someone else is driving the car.

That is why, when I watched The Italian Job this weekend, I was a little miffed at one of the "deleted scenes," in which an injured driver had to be replaced with someone who didn't know how to drive a stick. The injured driver said that he would shift gears for the replacement -- like shifting is the hard part?! It's finding that delicate balance between clutch and gas that's hard, people. Shifting gears is easy (there's usually even a damn diagram on the gear knob). I got over it. What was harder to get over, however, was the trio of Mini Coopers that I was supposed to get excited about. A car chase with Minis? I mean, really, what's the point?

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