How to Drive a Stick Shift Properly: A Guide to How it Should Be Done

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A guide style piece on how to connect with your car.

Submitted: March 21, 2013

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Submitted: March 21, 2013




 The first step to driving a manual vehicle properly is to be taught. This should be done by the learner's father or closest adult, male friend who owns a manual, preferably a car that he babies. (*tip: the more expensive it is to repair the vehicle learned upon, the more difficult it will be to learn how to drive it.) Be sure to perform your first attempt in an abandoned parking lot, preferably with very sturdy, concrete lamp posts scattered through it. While learning, insist on sitting in the driver's seat from the start, as allowing the father to show you how it is done will result in a mediocre mimicking of this arduous process by alleviating a good portion of beginners luck. Insert the key into the ignition and press your left foot firmly against the clutch, pushing the pedal to the floor. Press your right foot on the brake and depress it gently. Be sure that the shifter is in the neutral position before turning the key. (*tip: when shifting, be sure to move the shifter from one position to the next carefully, but cautiously; unlike an automatic, manual cars are sentient, and while forgiving to learners, they have been known to hold grudges against gear grinders. For more explanation, see the section marked Exotic Cars.)

Finally you are ready to begin. Turn the key in the ignition, both feet still depressing the clutch and brake. Be sure to listen to your father's instructions, but take care as well to ignore the change in pitch in his voice, however subtle; this is merely a reflex caused by his curiosity to see how the car accepts you as you wake it up. Leaving the shifter in the neutral position and without removing your left foot from the clutch, take your right foot off of the brake and allow the car to roll forward a small distance, perhaps a foot or so, then push the brake again, stopping the car with a slight jolt. This is the acceptable way to wake up your car's manual transmission, which can be considered equivalent to a person who does not enjoy mornings opening their eyes just a slight amount. Your car is now awake, but not fully; don't worry, we will cover fully awakening your car in a moment. Now that your car is awake, superficially at least, the proper steps should be made, starting with putting the shifter in the first gear position and taking a deep breath. Here is where you begin acclimating the car to you. Since this is your first car, expect a minimum of three stalls of the engine before your car knows you well enough to put any amount of effort into beginning your journey with you. (*tip: when driving a car other than your first car for the first time, it should take less time for the new car to become acclimated to you as the scent of your first car will remain on you and let the new car know how you will treat it. However, it's good to remember to always be polite, cars do have feelings.) After the car has accepted you, albeit temporarily at first, proceed to shift through second and first gears almost immediately. Do not stray into fourth gear as of yet, as that is what will fully wake up your car and it is preferable to keep the car docile and sleepy while acclimating yourself to it. Repeat this full process a minimum of three times before driving the car by yourself.

The second as well as final step is to fully wake the car up so that it is acutely alert of your presence. This is best done alone, as multiple scents, especially a familiar one, can confuse the car and cause it to behave dangerously. Perform all the appropriate steps to rouse your car as mentioned above and set out. The best weather for fully waking your car up is a crisp, fall day without rain and a strong autumn sun. When you think yourself ready, place your hand on the shifter, palm fully pressed against the top of the stick. For a minimum of five seconds, think on the idea of pushing your heart, soul, and person-hood into the palm of your hand and allow it to rest against the surface of the shifter. If, during this moment, you feel a curious touch in your thoughts, do not be alarmed. This is the car exploring the idea of “you” as a whole and is more frequently seen in young cars or cars who are not used to new drivers. After you have done this, depress the clutch with your left foot, move the shifter to the fourth gear position, and depress the accelerator with your right foot while simultaneously taking your left foot off of the clutch.(*tip: when shifting into fourth gear, it is acceptable, only in the instance of fully awakening your car for the first time, to pop the clutch somewhat and give a full push on the accelerator.) After this is done, accelerate quickly and, if possible, move into the top gear. The exception of this are six speed transmissions, who are best left to the professionals as they are often a bit more dangerous than your average five speed transmission. Once you have reached fifth gear, it is up to you to complete the bond between you and the car. Drive to a long, straight road that is not a highway under any circumstances, that has a slight hill just over halfway down it. On this road, shift quickly through the positions, skipping third gear if possible. Bring the car to a speed of at least 80 miles per hour, although breaking the speed limit posted by 40 miles per hour will also suffice, in the case of 25 mile per hour zones. Keep the car steady at the appropriate speed, continuing to accelerate slightly as you go over the hill. As you feel your stomach lift and fear in the back of your eyes as you shoot over the hill, push down hard on the clutch and move the shifter into the neutral position. DO NOT take your hand off of the shifter under any circumstances until you coast to the first sharp bend in the road. Allow your heart rate to settle as you brake gradually and then return home without going over the speed limit until you are parked in your driveway or garage. When you stop, be sure to apply the parking brake and leave the car in second gear as you leave, as this will allow the car to relive the bonding moment between you and it as it sleeps. Congratulations, you are now a genuine driver! (WARNING: some people will find that as they age that they are unable to drive new cars as well as they drove their first car. This occurs in 4.6% of cases and is regrettably untreatable.)

© Copyright 2019 Liam Morris. All rights reserved.

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