Today I thought I'd use this post as an opportunity to encourage a little equal opportunity on a skill not often taught to women: how to drive a manual car.
First, let me tell you a little story about how I
was forced learned to drive stick. It was four days before my sophomore year of high school. I had been in a small accident earlier in the summer (NOT my fault!) that totaled my beloved Beetle. RIP. It was down to the wire and I still didn't have a car. Enter a decent, fire engine red Chevy Cavalier with low gas and low mileage, one owner. Perfect! One small detail...it was a 5 speed. So, at 16 years old, two days before my first day of school, I taught myself how to drive a manual.
**My car and its inelastic demand curve to represent the ridiculous cost of a locksmith to retrieve your keys**
In my humble opinion, I think knowing how to drive both automatic and manual lends itself to versatility in case of accidents or last minute scenarios where you have to drive someone else's car. Plus, most men don't even give a second thought to assuming a woman knows how so it's a fun thing to be able to do. ;)
So, here's a few tips that got me through it in less than two days.
~Find a hill. The very first thing I did was back my car down to the bottom of my hilly driveway, stop, and practice driving back up the hill without stalling. This will prepare you for the dreaded uphill stop sign/light when a monstrous truck is inches away from your bumper.
~Find your sweet spot. Every manual car has a sweet spot in the clutch that, in short, catches and allows you to press the gas and accelerate. It'll be a little bit different for each car, especially if it's a used car. Mine, for instance, was driven to college by a young man who caused me to replace the clutch not soon after purchasing my car.
~Scope out rural roads. My best indicator of day to day driving came when my dad took me on a rural highway with lots of stop signs that stretched for miles. It was an ideal opportunity to practice accelerating through all five gears and back down. It's all about having a small ability to multitask between the clutch, the shifter, and the ridiculous noises my poor engine was making as I maxed out my RPM's :D
~Turning. 99% of the time you will need to be in 2nd gear to make a turn. Just in case you didn't know, it's always your best bet. The "just pick C" of the auto world.
~Stay positive! Lastly, just keep at it. The only real way to learn is to get in a manual car and go for it. You will forget what order your shifter is in. You will stall...countless times...at the most inopportune times (like in the school parking lot with a truck full of good looking guys behind you).
Just keep at it and laugh at yourself in the process!
How many of you ladies out there already know how to drive stick? Have you ever been assumed to not know how? Let me know!