When I graduated high school and told my dad I felt I should have a new car. Shortly after, my ’95 Mazda Miata (my first love, my first car) gave out and he took me to a Mini Cooper dealership to get a beautiful 2004 Cooper. One problem: They were so popular that the automatics were on backorder for months.
The salesman of course promised that learning stick-shift on a Mini Cooper was WAY easier than any other car. I tried to test drive it, no good. We bought it anyway and my dad set out to teach me stick.
We went to a warehouse parking lot that was severely steep (thank God this came in handy for my later move to San Francisco) and my dad made me stop and go for maybe a quarter mile on this steep ugly parking lot. Stop, downshift, go, shift, downshift, stop, go, stop, go….
It was incredibly scary and frustrating and I hated it. I got the hang of it.
I took my mom’s SUV to work for the next week.
Finally, they were like OK you have a new car go take it out because you are paying for it and you are not driving it. Then, I stalled constantly. CONSTANTLY. Constant. Every stop sign. Every stop light. Anytime I slowed down. Anytime I tried to go. I was awful and I already had anxiety so this driving issue only exacerbated everything. With time and pressure and more practice with Dad, I learned. And I drove great. I drove confidently. I drove my friends and we’d be cruising along and they’d be like, “OMG, I didn’t even know this was a stick, you drove so smooooth!”
My dad taught me right. You let off the clutch slowly, press the gas, and go. You put the car in neutral and brake to slow down, or slowly shift down. Guess what? Somewhere along the lines, I FORGOT.
I would think I was downshifting when I was actually just grinding the clutch and the brake and shifting gears like a MANIAC.
My transmission went out on a 2004 Mini Cooper manufactured by BMW. Yes, it was expensive and painful.
After my Mini got repo’d after I lost my job in the great recession, my pops bought me a Ford Focus. It was automatic. I totalled it because I fell asleep coming back to Riverside from San Diego after a tumultuous weekend with the ex.
MY DAD helped me buy an old Isuzu Trooper (stick) from my boss’s friend (God bless their souls) and I got in, started driving, and was right back to old habits.
The clutch went out in 3 months even though the previous owner had just replaced it.
Desperate for a car, I bought a VW Beetle. 2007. Guess what? Its a stick. It was previously owned but in good condition. It stopped working after 3 months. The mechanic said it was due to the clutch. He SHOWED me the clutch. It was devastated to say the least. He said, as a very nice Christian person, “I don’t mean to offend you but I think you should only drive automatic. This is the second worst clutch I’ve seen in my life.”
I told my dad. He goes, “Well, are you riding on the clutch too much? You should only hit the clutch when you are shifting gears, not anytime else.”
All of a sudden, I flashed back to all of the steep hills in my Mini Cooper and Bug where I would literally have the clutch held down. Everytime I would BRAKE I would hold the clutch down. All of these awful mistakes I knew not to make when I first learned came back to haunt me. I was guilty. And I think I was responsible for the poor health of 3 cars.
And sometimes, that’s how life is. You think because you were taught right you’re untouchable. But somewhere along the lines, you learned wrong. You picked up bad habits. You repeatedly did something you weren’t supposed to and couldn’t figure out why your life kept falling apart. You struggled on steep hills and wore yourself down. You remembering it being a lot easier than it was right now. At first its easy to blame the machine, but when you break down three machines its time to start claiming your blame. OK, OK. It WAS me.
For all of these years I thought I knew how to drive stick and I did but I forgot along the way. I feel like for all of these years I thought I knew how to do a lot of things and I did but I forgot along the way,
But now, I am practicing good stick-shift habits. I hope the rest of my life will follow.