Stick Chick

In 1977 my best high school friend Kenny Jay Crawford taught me how to drive a stick in his dad’s bullet proof farm truck which happened to be a ’59 Ford pickup and a total pain in the ass to drive. This was for the sole purpose of using me as a hay mule, but that was okay; even back then in rural America not many of my female friends could handle a manual transmission so it made me feel like a badass. To paraphrase from the Red Green Show, “If boys didn’t find me pretty they could sure find me handy”. My love affair with the clutch solidified in the 80’s when my now ex husband bought me a 1977 Camaro with a 350 and a Muncie lift reverse complete with competition clutch. And headers. I was officially the coolest mom in elementary school.

Every car I have owned since then must have a manual transmission and both my car and truck are five speeds. I like driving and I love being in control of and engaged with my vehicle; crappy road conditions are a million times better when you can dictate what your wheels are doing and insurance company statistics can already tell you that people who drive a stick are lower insurance risks out of the box likely because they are paying attention. My daughter is of the exact same mind and was recently frustrated by the new car choices for clutch lovers; the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find cars with a manual transmission option is both appalling and alarming.

Equally appalling was the experience I had today after waiting an hour and a half to get an inspection on my truck at the local Valvoline shop; the young lady who was the inspection tech was unable to drive a stick and therefore could not complete the inspection. I had never heard of such a thing!  She assured me that the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles had disallowed her from completing inspections on vehicles with manual transmissions because she had been unable to complete that part of the test. My first response was, “Girlfriend, get behind the wheel because you are about to get a lesson”, but of course she was on the clock and could not do it. To her credit she quickly called a couple other of their local shops to find one with an open bay; I was able to get my inspection done at a shop about four miles away by a cheerful young man who was apologetic about the inconvenience. But it blew my mind that someone in the business could not drive a stick.

I guess the meme I have seen on the internet about a stick shift being the ultimate anti-theft device is laughably true.

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4 Comments

  1. Adrian Sebborn said,

    February 3, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    It did not have the same cache for me. I learned to drive on double decker buses. I must admit that I got a curious thrill driving something that massive and heavy (by law they must be able to right themselves when tipped to an angle of 47 degrees). The reward at the end of that rainbow was what is called a PSV (Public Service Vehicle) license.

    The test for the PSV is extreme, since you can have up to 70 lives in your hands. Part of that test was to take a double decker onto a skid patch and put the bus into a skid at 35mph. When the instructor taps you on the shoulder you then have to pull out of the skid. Waiting for that tap on the shoulder seemed like an eternity but boy was the whole experience a rush.

    When I came the the USA, automatic gearboxes were a novelty for me I had never seen one before. In Europe stick shifts still outsell automatics. If things get really desperate over here you should still be able to import one, maybe even with the steering wheel on the right side (ambiguity intended) 🙂

    • scott richmond said,

      February 4, 2017 at 7:55 am

      Ha! I have seen videos of the red double deckers in skid pans, it looks unnatural!

      I drove long distance touring coaches in Australia and Europe for a few years and they were mainly 18 – Speed Road Ranger gearboxes with no syncromesh. You had to listen to the engine, double clutch and change gears. Like you, I was amazed to find all of the buses in the States are automatic! I drove here for a year and warched my left leg atrophy from lack of use.

      • Adrian Sebborn said,

        February 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

        The buses I learned on had 12 cylinder Gardener engines and no synchromesh clutch so you had to double declutch on those. By the time I moved over here in 1975 the new machines had semi-automatic gear boxes with a tiny joystick gear stick – very weird.

  2. glikbach said,

    February 3, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    I bought a car in Naples Florida from a Lexus dealership. It was a Nissan Sentra SE-R Vspec which is a long way of saying, “fun to drive”

    I got to the dealership and asked to see the
    car and they told me a kid had bought the car new and put 64 miles on it. He couldn’t teach himself to drive stick so his grandfather made him trade or in on a Lexus with an auto.

    It blew my mind that he got his grandfather to but him a new Lexus but then I noticed 4 guys pushing the car around from the rear of the dealership. I immediately thought that the engine was blown or the clutch was fried. But no, “no one here can drive a stick.” WTF? That was when I realized what a ‘special’ place Florida really is.


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