Well…..can you? I can, and do, every day. Even in the year 2014, I drive a car that does not have an automatic transmission. It has its challenges. Hills. Yep, But only hills with red lights or stop signs! Traffic. Yep. Your leg can get very, very tired holding the clutch in, shifting from first to second to first to second to first to second to third to first – you get the picture. But overall, driving a car with a manual transmission is fun. I’ll admit, my next car will probably have an automatic. But not because I don’t enjoy driving my stick shift, but because with arthritis, it may not be a good thing in the future, as well as I may have to get a bigger vehicle to accommodate hubby’s wheelchair, and a lift for that chair.
I know – you are reading along, thinking this woman writes about life threatening and life altering illnesses, and she is now extolling the virtues of the old-fashioned manual transmission. Well, hang on, I’ll get there. Back to my original question – can you drive a manual transmission? Many people under the age of 50 will answer that with a no. I have had people comment when I say I drive a stick shift that I must drive an old car, and the answer to that is no, my car is a 2012 model. But if you were in a dire emergency situation, and the only means of transportation available to you was a vehicle with a standard transmission – what would you do? Hmmm?
Think on that for a minute while I go on. I was driving home from school today, and the thought occurred to me – life has a manual transmission. Think about it – every last one of us starts in first gear. For the first year or so, we are trying to figure out how the clutch works. Once we figure it out, the starts can be really jerky, and we can kill the engine and have to start over. Then we shift to second gear. At first the transition isn’t smooth at all. Just like the first few times you shift from first to second, you haven’t quite got the gas/clutch coordination down, and it can be a rough ride. Stopping can be an interesting thing – especially if you forget that you have to depress the clutch, and you stall. Or if the stop is on an incline, and the person behind you gets a tad too close. But we figure it out, and get pretty good at it. We get to where we can even get to third, maybe fourth gear! (my car has six forward speeds – if yours has less, adjust my meaning accordingly). This is about the time we graduate high school. Once we graduate, we discover FIFTH GEAR!!!!! More speed!!!! But we are still accelerating. We still have to stop sometimes and start over, but since we have a good bit of practice now, we don’t stall out hardly at all, but smoothly get right back up to speed. Then, we finish college, and WHAM – SIXTH GEAR!!!!!!! The possibilities are endless. There is not a speed limit we cannot exceed! The world lays at our feet, and we can confidently take our manual transmission over any kind of terrain presented, knowing that after all this time, and all the practice we have, that we can get there no matter what.
So, here we are, cruising along. Sure, there have been those who never got their transmission past second gear, but not us. We are blasting along, pushing our RPM’s just as far as we dare when it happens. OUR CLUTCH GOES OUT!!!!! For those who don’t know, when a clutch goes out, usually if you can get any gear at all, its first. So we head to the mechanic, which for us is the doctor. Maybe its cancer, maybe lupus, maybe arthritis, maybe diabetes, maybe any number of other diseases or conditions. But we have to have our clutch replaced. For some of us, it is an easy thing. In and out in an afternoon, a trip to the pharmacy and we are back on the road. Others have had a little more extensive damage, maybe they drove with the bad clutch a little too long, and have to have other parts fixed as well. But they, too, are soon back on the road of life, maybe not as quickly, but they can still maintain highway speeds. But for some of us, no matter what is tried, the clutch simply can’t be fixed. We are told we have to live with (insert illness here). We have to learn how to drive our car with a messed up clutch. Some people can. They are so good at it that no one would ever guess their clutch has a problem. If they do it long enough, others may question if their clutch was ever messed up in the first place, because it isn’t visible. There are those who are relegated to just first gear, with an occasional trip to second gear. Still moving forward, just very slowly, and some days that taxes the limits of their ability. But they go on as best they can until the transmission simply gives out.
But there is a whole other group out there. As soon as they could, they exchanged their manual transmission for an automatic. With cruise control. They blast through life, cruise set at 80. They laugh at those who still drive a stick shift. But all too often, their automatic transmission just stops with no warning. They are told the only fix is a return to a manual transmission – and they simply do not know how to operate one. Instead of trying to learn, they simply give up. They spend their days bemoaning all that they can no longer do, instead of seeing that if they took advantage of just first gear, there is still so much LIFE out there – illness and all.
So – I ask you again – can you drive a manual transmission? Would you learn if your life depended on it?
Thanks for your time in reading this – share if you so desire.