Thursday, October 01, 2009

on driving.

(hit play to listen to one of my favorite Breeders songs, set to some random video, while reading this post. don't worry, it's appropriate and charming)

i remember my first time driving.

i was 15 (9th grade?), and had just gotten my learners permit (in the US, all that is necessary for this is to pass a written exam).

after school/work, mom + i were talking in the kitchen. i was telling her about how nervous i was about getting behind the wheel (since watching my parents drive, it seemed so complicated a thing. in my family we only drove stick shifts, and i didn't think anything else existed). mom said there was nothing to worry about, and she'd take me out. when? right now.

we stopped making dinner, went outside, and got into our 1987 Mitsubishi Colt Vista, which mom pulled into the back yard (a large field of grass where kickball, frisbee, and or calvinball was usually played in). mom traded seats with me, and started to explain the finer working of the clutch, gas, and break. after several stalls (leaving some mysterious tire marks in the grass that later left my dad baffled), we gave up, re-parked the car in the driveway, and went back in before dad + my sister got home.

so i was no longer nervous but rather too scared (stupid) to drive again. this was way too complex of an undertaking. i'd just let my parents drive me around til i got to college.

some months later, i attended drivers' ed in high school (10th grade?). i sat behind the wheel with our teacher (my memory is fuzzy here, but i recall a picture of a Morgan Freeman-type character). the car was automatic, not a stick shift. remember, up until this point, i just assumed everyone drove a stick shift. i was soon surprised to find out how easy it was to learn to drive. instead of focusing on my feet on the clutch and hand on the gear shift, i could focus on adjusting the steering wheel and keeping an eye on traffic. i passed drivers ed with flying colors.

it wasn't until the following summer (between 10th + 11th grade?) that my dad took me out to my former elementary school, to officially teach me how to drive on a stick shift, in our 1987 1984 (typo!) white Toyota Celica (which my dad had proudly bought new + outright years earlier, and my sister had already taken off to college). we basically had a long, empty, circular stretch of road, full of straightaways, gentle turns, and the occasional stop sign. the perfect place to start, stall, and figure my way out around this very sophisticated manually-transmissioned automation. i was soon coordinating my feet, hands, and eyes in concert. this was far more complicated than most video games i had played before (most of which i sucked at), but i soon mastered it. hopefully i would not prove to be a danger to pedestrians, and society as a whole.

the next year (11th grade) i went off to a boarding school (for nerds...a "Math & Science" school), where i wouldn't need a car. it wasn't until my senior year (12th grade) that i would soon receive the "family heirloom" car (the afore-mentioned '87 '84 Celica) to take down to Mobile, AL. for the next 4 years, that car would follow me up, down, and across the entire state of Alabama (and across quite a bit of the Southeast) - in search of rock bands, football games, and girls.

by junior year of college, my old Celica had its tires, breaks, clutch, and even engine replaced at least once. between my dad, sister, and i, we had driven it more than 200,000 miles. it was soon given to Goodwill, and a used '96 Celica was purchased (a stick shift, naturally). it was also white, and dubbed by my dad "the white machine"...which my friends found hilarious, so the name stuck). that car stayed with me thru the rest of college and grad school, and soon followed me out of the south, and up to the midwest, where i began my professional life. it eventually brought me out to NY, where it's clearly on it's last leg (and i'm having trouble giving it away - emotionally and practically).

so while this post turned into quite a bit of reminiscing (for myself), i actually DID have a broader point to make, i promise. let's try to get back on track, shall we?

over the years, i've driven a # of other cars that were not my own (as a designated driver, splitting driving duty on road trips, car rentals). more often than not, they are NOT stick shifts, but automatics (not counting my recent adventures in a charming POS Volkswagon Chico in Capetown). at first, driving an automatic was an odd sensation, as i would instinctively tap the break looking for a clutch. but i soon got over it, and realized how easy driving an automatic was.

and this is my point (finally): most drivers are morons on the road, because driving an automatic is far too easy. it's quite stupid, really. so they feel the need to go head, eat a burger, send a text, adjust their makeup. driving a stick requires a bit more (unconscious) focus and concentration, so you're less likely to be distracted when driving in traffic. driving a manual transmission car forces you to have more respect for the car, the road, and the art of driving. and by no means am i saying i am a good driver, but definitely one that is more aware than the average bear (but i'll give $1, or a free car ride, the first person to get the photo reference...with the exception of RAJ).

driving SHOULD be a more complex exercise. a car is a complex piece of machinery (a plane is a bit more complicated, but there are far less accidents involving planes than cars). it would do us well to keep the bad drivers off the road (ie, those who can't figure out how to manage a manual) and make the rest of us well-coordinated experts.

it doesn't hurt that most manuals often give better gas mileage as well (though i think modern automotive technology has changed that).

so what's the point here? i forgot. but man that's a great Breeders song. and friends don't let friends let bears get behind the wheel.

happy driving, morons.


  1. Worst post ever! I was so sure you were going to say you bought a new car! YOU TEASE!

  2. alright. a clarification for all of your esteemed readers.
    raman's first car was a 1984 celica hatchback, not 1987. dad bought it for $8500 (couldn't believe it myself, he had saved the receipt - he wouldn't be our dad if he hadn't)
    this post made me laugh out loud, because i was taught to drive the same exact way...guess the experiment child, me, forged a clear path for you.
    and our driver's ed teacher was the librarian at forest avenue's husband, mr. smith. he looked nothing like morgan freeman, except that he was also black.

  3. "1987" was a typo, since my first driving memory is in the 87 Colt Vista.

    and i didn't say Mr.Smith looked like Morgan Freeman, i just said he reminded me of him (wise old dude with a nice voice)


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