I suppose it’s all about timing.
My father’s car had a three-speed, steering-column mounted standard transmission. He insisted that I learn how to drive using his car, rather than my mother’s, which was an automatic. “You need to know how to drive a stick shift just in case you ever find yourself in a situation where a car with an automatic transmission is not available,” he explained to me.
“But there are three pedals, Dad,” I whined, “and I have only two feet.”
“The one on the left is the clutch,” he explained. “And all it requires to master driving a car with a clutch pedal is coordination and good timing.”
And so my father spent many hours sitting shotgun while I learned how to drive a car with a manual transmission. After a while, I nailed it and I even took my driver’s test using his car.
As it turned out, I came to love driving cars with manual transmissions. In fact, every car I ever owned on my own since learning how to drive has had a manual transmission with a floor mounted stick shifter.
Until, that is, my wife and I moved to San Francisco recently. The streets of San Francisco are known for their very steep inclines. I quickly learned that proficiency in driving cars with manual transmissions is not enough in San Francisco. No amount of coordination and timing could save me. I ended up driving miles out of my way in search of relatively flat streets rather than having to experience the smell of burning out my clutch trying to navigate the treacherously steep grades of the streets that were on the more direct route.
And so, after decades of driving cars with manual transmissions, I finally caved a few years back and bought a car with an automatic one. While I miss using a clutch and throwing the shifter from gear to gear, I can now get from point A to point B in this hilly city by taking the most direct route.
Of course, I find that I need to replace my car’s worn brake pads quite often.
Written for today’s one-word prompt, “clutch.”