I’ve been considering a new car, even been to a couple dealerships to have a look at the latest models and pick up some brochures… but—until now—one thing has been preventing from actually taking a test drive: all the cars I’m interested in are equipped with manual transmissions, and I don’t how to drive a stick shift. Actually, “don’t know” is not exactly the right term, as an on intellectual level I understand fairly well how a manual transmission works, and what I need to do with it. However, when my friend Drew tried to teach me a few years back, the results of a couple hours of whiplash-inducing clutch-popping and stalling seemed rather hopeless. I’ve always believed that with enough practice I could actually be able to do it—and well—but practice is somewhat hard to come by, as car rental places now exclusively carry automatic-transmission cars.
I was relating this little problem at dinner and my friend Nick, on a whim, offered to teach me again. It was with some trepidation that I accepted, not just because of my previous experience, but also because I knew that this time, I would be learning at the wheel of Nick’s car, a very high-performance Subaru Impreza WRX STi with all-wheel drive and packing some 300 horsepower under the hood. In a way it was a good platform for me to learn on, being very similar to my current car of choice, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8.
I started out okay but then hit a rough spot attempting to exit the parking garage; as I was stopped waiting for the garage gate to open another car pulled up behind me, and worrying about stalling and holding it up was stressful enough that my concentration was shot and I stalled the car three times before finally being able to get going again.
After that, things went more smoothly and after doing many loops around the neighbouring (empty) parking lot, I started to get the hang of things. Finally I took the car out onto the street and did a couple loops around the block to get a small taste of the car’s capabilities. All in all, I’d say this was a much more positive experience than the last, and while I still need lots of practice before I can confidently say that I’m fully able, at least now I’m confident that the ability is within my reach.