American Girls Don't Drive Standard

There are lots of stereotypes about American girls (not the dolls, the real people). We discussed before why American girls are so smelly

Billy has also often reminded me, “Americans don’t drive standards. I don’t understand it. They’re cheaper. They get better gas mileage, and they are less expensive to repair the transmission.”   

Honestly, “cheaper, cheaper, and cheaper” are the only arguments I needed to learn how to drive standard. And I have a sneaking suspicion that my stick shift skillz are what made Billy fall in love with me in the first place.

The very first car I ever owned was a little, blue, stick shift Toyota Tercel. I loved that little car. 

It’s too bad that when I first bought it, I had no idea how to drive standard.

I had been allowed to test drive the car for a full week (I don’t know… I can’t imagine anyone doing that now, but I’m from Kentucky), so I was able to practice quite a bit. Still, when my dad drove me to the lot to pay for it, I realized I’d be driving home alone.

My left-hand exit out of the dealership involved a lot of false starts and frantic yelps. I wasn’t sure accelerating quickly across the four-lanes of traffic on this exceptionally busy road was the best way to start, but…

The main issue arose nearing a very sharp curve on the back roads to my house. Somehow, I had understood that if you hit the brakes in a stick shift car, you would stall. So… I was avoiding hitting the brakes at all costs.

Since I’m alive writing this, there’s little surprise to you that I survived the harrowing turn at an inappropriate speed and arrived home safely with my first little car of my own.

When my parents asked about the car several weeks into my college semester, I confessed I had not been driving it because I was scared. With encouragement, I worked up the courage to keep practicing (read: driving around the city where I could easily practice my way into an accident).

Life with a stick shift has involved multiple incidences of being parked in the shoulder crying. The first time, no one allowed me to merge, leaving me sitting at the end of the entrance ramp at a full stop. I knew I could never accelerate quickly enough to merge into freeway traffic. So I just sat there crying.

The last time occurred because I had not understood that loving a car means giving it motor oil. So yes, my engine locked up, the car stalled while I was zipping along the interstate, and I was relegated to sobbing on the side of the road once again.

Every car I’ve owned since that Tercel has been a manual, and I love them.  Now, when I am in an automatic car, I simply feel too uninvolved in the whole driving process.

Do you know how to drive stick? Do you have a preference? What happened to your first car?


  1. Love this. Sometime I'll have to write about how I learned how to drive stick shift in GUATEMALA. Gerber taught me in his HUGE pickup on a street in Antigua with tuk-tuks, bicycles and buses going by. I asked if we could practice in a parking lot and he looked at me like...where on earth do you think we're going to find a parking lot? Let me just say it was a defining point in in our relationship : )

    1. You are a brave woman! I haven't had the courage to drive in Guate yet. I once had a nightmare I was driving there. :)


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