I just glanced at an article in The Atlantic that saddens me greatly. It’s because the article foretells the demise of stick shifts in motor vehicles. This is a terrible event in the age of the horseless carriage.
Here’s the article to which I refer:
I learned how to drive on a manual transmission. Mom taught me the ins and outs of operating a three-speed transmission in her 1961 Rambler. It was a brown-ish vehicle. It wasn’t very sporty, but it did allow me to learn the intricacies of actually operating a motor vehicle.
Mom advised me that “once you learn to master a manual transmission, you’ll be able to drive anything.” Oh, she was so right.
Not too many years after learning how to drive Mom’s Rambler, I returned home from Vietnam and spent the final few months of my Army tour of duty with an armored cavalry regiment in Fort Lewis, Wash. I got orders to report to a transportation company within the Third Armored Cav. They threw me into a five-ton cargo truck. And, yep, it had a manual transmission.
It was a piece of cake, man.
Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic: But the manual transmission’s chief appeal derives from the feeling it imparts to the driver: a sense, whether real or imagined, that he or she is in control. According to the business consultant turned motorcycle repairman turned best-selling author Matthew Crawford, attending to that sense is not just an affectation. Humans develop tools that assist in locomotion, such as domesticated horses and carriages and bicycles and cars—and then extend their awareness to those tools. The driver “becomes one” with the machine, as we say.
Hey, it’s not “imagined.” The driver is in control.
My family members have known for years how I feel about stick-shift driving. I always have preferred to actually manipulate the clutch pedal and run the shifter through its paces over just sitting behind the steering wheel and guiding the car to wherever I have pointed it.
Hey, I’ll get over this sad news. It’s just going to take some time.