Life Rule #339. Stick It to the Manual.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have good parents. The kind of parents that show up to our ball games, ground us, tuck us in at night and actually love us. They'll make sure we get a solid education. They'll work to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. They're the parents who reside in the unfortunate smaller percentage of American marriages who aren't actually divorced. You're lucky if you've been raised by good parents.
And then there are the blessed few of us who have GREAT parents. These are the parents who do everything noted above multiplied by at least 100 and THEN they teach you how to drive a stick shift.
Yes, you saw that correctly. No parent loves their child more than the brave soul who willingly sacrifices their sanity in order to teach their offspring how to operate a manual transmission.
I'm a man. I grew up as the oldest of four, three of which were boys. My folks were already dangerously close to tossing a toaster into the bathtub while we were playing. Growing up a boy brought enough recklessness into our home yet when you toss in 2 more boys and a little princess of a daughter well then you've just gone right ahead and tied a bow of nonsense atop a present of cataclysmic circus shenanigans. Bottom line: we got into trouble....CONSTANTLY. I've seen my mother upset. We managed to drive who I would consider the kindest woman on this planet to cursing up a storm. I've seen my father get so flaming pissed at us I thought there weren't enough wooden spoons in the kitchen to get through a brutal spanking session. For all of the dog houses we found ourselves in through the years NOTHING compares to the tension we felt in an empty parking lot, in our recently purchased Mazda 626, ready to tackle one of life's great mysteries.
Learning how to operate a stick shift for the first time is similar to receiving your first hand-job. My God! A girl has HER hand nervously wrapped around YOUR penis! Right in the beginning of your experience you swear that life will never be better nor will it ever be the same again. You're right, to a certain extent. For the hand-job is the gateway drug of sexual foreplay. Your bar will only raise from there (pun very much intended). Alas, there's a storm on the horizon and it's coming for your shaft. Move aside, wonderful feelings. You're about to feel the pain of inexperience and adrenaline all wrapped into one sweaty teen's fingers. An improper hand-job is a tug-of-war and you're side is taking a beating. Enjoy!
Let's apply that notion to the automobile now, shall we?
You're elated, and why shouldn't you be? Chances are you're sitting in your first car. This fact alone places an air of freedom in your soul that may forever rest solidly in the top 5 of your life experiences. You feel like a god. Once you tackle this obstacle you're going to race on and take over the rest of the world! Although it's going to be tough to take down the world with a stalled engine. Failed attempt number one. You're not worried. It's not even a body blow. Your mom or dad told you to expect this. No one gets the hang of the stick on their first attempt! Take a breath, get that engine purring again and take another stab at it. You've got places to be, dammit!
Flash forward 45 minutes.
You aren't sure how many attempts you've made. You're only halfway across that empty parking lot and you've only managed to get out of first once and that one successful shift feels more like a fluke than a success. Your dad is sitting in the passenger seat tapping his hand on his knee just staring straight ahead. Is he still calm? He is, right? This was HIS idea! He can't be frustrated. Screw it. Time to show the old man he made the right decision--annnnd stall number infinity. Shit. A tide of frustration and regret washes over the car like a God damn tsunami. You saw it coming but it mattered little. This squall was churning up 50 foot waves and you're cowering in a dingy. Take the shellacking.
After a brief verbal tirade and an awkward silence you imagine was designated for your father to collect himself and answer the glaring internal question of "Why in the hell did I volunteer for this crap?!" he turns to you and with stone-cold certainty says, "Alright, let's go again. This happens today." Another wave smashes into the car only this time it's a blast of adrenaline and determination. You're damn right this happens today.
Before you know it you're racing around that lot like a seasoned NASCAR racer. You and your father are hooting and hollering like a couple of clowns who've just been unleashed from their jack-in-the-box. You're gliding from one gear to the next smoother than a knife smothering warm butter on a piece of toast.
When you finally return home that evening you enter your house a man. You left a timid boy, unsure of what would transpire. Now you can conquer anything you set your mind to. Forget hand-jobs. You're ready to move on to the old mouth hug. You've earned it.
And your dad is proud as shit. Proud of you for overcoming the treacherous minefield of the stick shift, proud of you for failing over and over, proud of you for not giving up. The whole point behind learning to drive a stick isn't just to have that skill in life's tool belt. Hell, we didn't even have that clunker of a Mazda for long. It was going through the motions and coming out on top.
And you got to the top with a GREAT parent. Or maybe it was a sibling, or a friend or some crazy blind guy you met at a carnival. Whatever the case you were presented with a challenge, accepted it and defeated it.
Something tells me with the throngs of sniveling little bitches this country is raising today we need to start getting more of them behind the wheel of a manual and teach them a thing or two.
So if you're one of those unfortunate souls who was never taught then get out their and find your teacher. And if you're one of the fortunate who has learned to master the art of the stick, ride on....and maybe pass it on.