So yes, I can drive a stick and I can parallel-park, which makes me better in some ways than many youngsters. Better at things that no longer need doing, but who’s quibbling?
However I would be fibbing if I said I really enjoy shifting gears. I got my first automatic car ten years ago and the only stick shift I ever encounter anymore is on our truck. My particular economy of stature is not what the designers of our truck envisioned. My feet barely aspire to the floor. In order to drive the truck at all, I have to reach underneath the bench seat and try to motivate the whole thing forward, but I’m not as strong as I might be and if no one’s there to help I usually only get it half whanged out, and not really as far forward as I need. That means I’m on the edge of the seat and at an angle, and when I put the clutch in, my leg is completely extended and also I’m driving with my tippy-toes. If my ass ever goes flat, I won’t have any grip on the seat at all. The only reason I haven’t hit anyone yet is probably because my driving is so erratic that everyone clears the hell out of the way.
But I haven’t hit anyone yet, and I’ve been driving this or our previous, even-bigger truck for thirty years. Mostly without complaint. Except when I’m bringing home a load of something up 33rd Avenue. 33rd Avenue has this one steep spot with a most unfortunate traffic light right at the top of it. I get a couple yards of steaming cow shit in the bed and I’m screaming all the way up the hill. I’m screaming at the people in front of me if I think they’re going to mosey me out of making the green light, and then I’m screaming at the people behind me if they’re planning to come right up on my bumper. I don’t want them right up on my bumper. I want them about a quarter mile from my bumper, assuming a prayerful position. I try to communicate that with enthusiastic gestures in the back window but it never works. “Oh look, George, there’s a crazy butch lady in front of you. I think it’s a lady. Get up closer so we can see.”
|Stairs up the Alameda Ridge|
Apparently no one is used to manual transmissions anymore. They assume if the truck full of steaming cow shit is stationary on the hill ahead of them, the only way it can go is forward. That is not at all the only way it can go. Particularly if I’m at the wheel. Sometimes I even signal the problem to the people behind me by rolling to a stop and then toggling back and forth with the clutch and gas so it rolls back a bit–then forward, then back again–but this only seems to fascinate them.
So when the light changes I have a couple options, if what you mean by “options” are things I can control in theory. I can stomp on the gas and simultaneously rip out the clutch pedal and go forward very noisily. Or I can do that and stall out and coast backwards with no power and burst into tears. It’s a crapshoot. I truly hate driving this street with a full load. I am a nervous wreck.
|Alameda Ridge view: rain, but higher rain.|
But we live on relatively high ground and elevation must be gained one way or the other. The problem, as I see it, is glacial Lake Missoula. We had a perfectly decent river basin here at one point, formed as a standard bit of scooped-out area in front of a group of volcanoes, and it should have been perfectly easy to haul a steaming bunch of cow shit home on it, but then came the Missoula Floods and their biblically massive cargo of sediment from eastern Washington, forty or so episodes of it, and our little neighborhood got progressively taller, and the portion at the top of 33rd Avenue in particular got taller. We had a minor volcano in the way of the floods coming down the Columbia River, and while it got briefly turned into an island, the north portions of it got scrubbed off and deposited as a giant gravel bar. This was great news for the future denizens of the so-called Alameda Ridge who would have a nice view of the city and a bunch of money to enjoy it with, but it was terrible news for those of us further north with all the elevation and none of the view and only passable driving skills and possibly a steaming load of cow shit. And, arguably, for the people driving behind us.
The entire situation is so ghastly that I’ve taken to skirting the Alameda Ridge altogether. Further west there are ways to gain that elevation but not quite so fast, and as much as I’d like to take a direct route, there’s something to be said for getting home at all. I don’t have to go too far out of my way. Just 15,000 years or so.
Perhaps make up a sign or a bumper sticker for the truck with a warning, like: "CAUTION! Truck may roll back after coming to a stop! Keep your distance!" Of course, people may just ignore it, like those ubiquitous "Baby on Board!" signs back in the 80s. Most of the time, I would see no sign of so much as a car seat, so I realized they were just a tactic to get me off their bumper. Ha! I don't fall prey to their puny psychological games! Hello, bumper!
Yeah, I never knew if they were bragging with that Baby On Board thing or what. Turns out it's "what." It's meant for rescue personnel to look for a tiny person in the wreckage when they've been careening home from the babysitter's. Anyway, if I had a bumper sticker, people'd crowd it just to read it.
Perhaps getting your own cow and having direct deposit would be an alternative. A side benefit is no more mowing and hedge trimming and the possibility of milk production could add to your time and modest income.
"direct deposit" I love it.
And if it isn't deposited where you want it, you can tip it up on end and roll it!
I've got a few suggestions for you:
-wear platform sneakers
-a stout cushion behind you
-perhaps a stout cushion under you, too, the better to prop you up so those behind you can actually SEE your hand gestures
Another good science lesson, and a good driving lesson, too!
"Grow," she says. "Grow," she says.
I have to admit there's a world of difference between an old stick shift and the modern version. My Beetle holds itself and doesn't roll back when I'm on an incline like that and trying to get going. I've finally come to trust it – mostly – and no longer have heart palpitations when the jackass behind me gets right up practically touching my "bumper." And what ever happened to bumpers anyway?
Why, they're made of fiberglass and sponge rubber! SO handy. You shoulda seen the bumper on our old International Harvester. You could push a tree over with that thing.
After reading this, I realized that in the absence of a sensible solution to this problem, there is always the old standby: throw money at it to make it go away. I am told that newer stick shift vehicles sometimes come with a "hill-holding" feature. Apparently the problem of drifting backward while stopped on a hill became serious enough that someone invented this invisible thing so that we don't have to worry about locking bumpers with the idiot behind us who has no clue about manual transmissions. In other words, you can 'throw money at the problem' by going out and buying a brand-new truck. That would cost $27,000+, but it would make the problem go away.
My inclination is to sell the truck to a neighbor for a buck, have him pay the insurance, and borrow it once a year for a cow shit run.
Incidentally, while reading about hill-holding technology, I came across this phrase. I immediately thought of you because I knew you'd love the German vocabulary word…."The hill-hold function became standard for Porsche when single- and dual-clutch transmissions like the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) found their way out of their racing vehicles and into street cars." I think I want a Doppelkupplung in my next car…..
I want my Doppelkupplung right under the front seat between my knees. You?
Ohh, Murr, now you're sounding downright racy! (Sorry, I couldn't resist the opportunity for a bad pun.)
I drive a Mazda 6, with a 6-speed manual transmission. It has the hill-holder feature on it, and I hate it. It feels like everything has frozen up for a second. I'd rather roll backward. Which, of course, I am too slick to do. *ahem* But it would help with the shifting load you're hauling, Murr. Ed's suggestion is great as far as it goes, but aside from the financial aspect, good luck finding ANY vehicle with a manual transmission in it nowadays. My husband drives a 14-year-old Toyota Tacoma, which is still raring along fine for the few things we ask it to do, but he's pretty well resigned to the settling for automatic if he ever trades it in.
Lording it over millennials is the ONLY thing I like about manual transmissions now.
I understand your problem. Fortunately, most of the BIg Mother trucks I'm given to drive had automatic gears. And I was happy to learn where the topsoil, and lots of middle soil went after Lake Missoula carried it away. The National Bison Range, Montana was in Lake Missoula until the ice dam broke and the water ran out. The highest part of the refuge was a former island.
Awesome. The rest of your soil went all the way down the Willamette River, I believe. Holy Moses!
There are smaller trucks out there that would enable your feet to comfortably rest on the pedals while your bum remains firmly in the seat. I realise Dave wouldn't fit in one of those, but you could probably park a smaller one in the bed of or underneath the big truck. The other option is to hire someone else to do the driving if Dave doesn't want to be hauling the steaming manure pile.
You had me at "my bum remains firmly."
Hilarious. I learned to drive on a stick shift, moved on to automatics, but in 2004 I bought a beater 1978 Mercedes diesel with a manual transmission. It was a model widely known for being unable to get out of its own way, plus it needed a new clutch. One night I pulled up to a stop sign on a steep street and could not get it uphill from the stop. I finally had to back down the hill and around the corner so I could try another route. So humiliating, and thank God no one was behind me.
…just for the lack-of-witnesses factor alone!
I was in a borrowed junker, stick shift, no pep. The thing decided it wasn't going to start from the starter: I had to get it moving (pushing, coasting downhill) and jam it into first to make the engine catch. Half way up a long, steep,curvy mountain road, the car stalled. I had to coast backwards down that hill, then jam the stick into reverse. It caught on the second try. I shook the rest of the way to the top, but the car was happy.
Sure it was. It had succeeded in informing you who was in charge.
Perhaps locally produced shit would be better for you. Then you wouldn't have to haul it. How many dogs are in your neighborhood?
I am not spreading carnivore shit on my tomatoes!
I love the smell of screaming clutch in the morning 😉
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