Why learning to drive stick still has value

This is simple.  The obvious reason is that you might need to drive a vehicle someday that has manual transmission.  If you cannot, you will be helpless when that day comes.

The less obvious reason is that it teaches you how the car works.  If you have never driven stick, you really have no idea what’s happening in your trannie. Why does your car go in and out of gear on hills? When are you close to lagging in gear, and when are you revving your RPMs? If you can drive stick, you understand the sounds you’re hearing.  You can drive with greater fuel efficiency, and make the vehicle last longer.

The least obvious reason is very subtle, but pervasive.  Our society lurches, increasingly, toward not knowing how to do things, letting things be done for us.  The complexity of things we use makes it so.  No, that cannot be stopped, but that does not mean we should yield tamely to it.  There is value in knowing how to do it yourself. The more you cannot do for yourself, the more you must depend upon others’ goodwill, honesty and efficiency. The more you can do for yourself, the freer you are.  No, you cannot learn to speak every language while learning to repair every vehicle, grow every crop, diagnose your own computer problems and re-plumb your own house.  It’s too much.  I get it.

That does not mean you should put up your hands and go calmly into dependency.  The sensible way to battle this is to do for yourself, at the very least, that which you can. That which you cannot, you cannot. Everyone sucks at something. We have to accept that, too. It does mean that learning to drive stick has value, because it makes a statement of refusal to ‘just let the machine do it for you.’ The machine may not always work, overall. Your cell phone doesn’t work everywhere.  Your Internet doesn’t work all the time.

When a crisis hits a city hard enough to trash its transportation infrastructure, starvation will begin in about 48 hours. At those times, the people who truly believe that food comes from grocery stores are in worse shape. They live in dependency, choosing to imagine that a grocery store is a farm, ranch and factory all in one. Sometimes, that which you depend upon fails you. Ask the people of New Orleans whether or not this is bullshit.

The mentality that insists on knowing how to drive stick is the freer mentality. That which yields tamely to the machine is the less free, the more dependent. It’s not so much about the off chance you might need to drive a vehicle.  It’s about your outlook on life, emblemized by the ways you can manipulate the gears of a vehicle.

What’ll it be…dependency or liberty?


4 thoughts on “Why learning to drive stick still has value”

  1. I learned to drive in a VW Bug and have reaped the benefits my whole life. One neighbor lady friend of mine rued the fact that she couldn’t, considering it COOL to do so, which is another benefit you didn’t mention. Driving stick is cool. Except, of course, on the steep hills of downtown Seattle…when it’s just a pain. Fun blog, J.K.


    1. A very good point. Probably the worst time to have stick is when waiting looking uphill at a red light, where you must achieve the gear transition swiftly or roll backward into the clod who is only one foot behind you. Thank you, Christi–I had kind of a hunch this one would make sense to you.


  2. Oh, I take pleasure in letting the car drift backwards a few inches before engaging the clutch to ooze forward a few inches, imagining the pure horror and panic that flashes through the mind of the driver of the massive H2 or other ridiculous monstrosity as they see my small, battered, plebeian car threatening their custom paint job. Hills used to make me panic, but since I’ve learned to handle them they just make me feel that much more in control of the situation. Which is perhaps your point. Excellent post: thank you!


    1. Heh, Abi, thanks! I do that too, at times, when someone crowds me stopped going uphill at a stop light. Let them wonder when I’ll managed to get the clutch engaged.


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