Thursday, January 28, 2010

Testing A Theory

When I bought (leased) new car, I chose a manual transmission for one simple reason: it's what we've been driving for a while. Devoted partner's car is a manual, when we visit our European friends we rent manuals. The last time I drove an automatic was in Arizona last year and it felt weird for the entire 10 minute drive.

But there was a nagging in the back of my head: are you really going to be ok driving this in less than optimal conditions. Stalling out is, to some extent, going to happen from time to time, and I'm proud when a month goes by in which I do not stall, but our driveway is, well, an enormous hill. Yes, we live in one of those houses that you reach by descent and it is not a gentle incline. So day one of pulling out of the driveway, I worried if I would reach the top. Fortunately, my fears were groundless. I actually did remember how to get up a hill, start on a hill, etc.

This morning, though was different. Five minutes after devoted partner left the house, he called from his mobile to tell me the conditions were bad. Really bad. All of a sudden, my driveway was no mere hill, but an icy deathtrap in my head. Devoted partner advised I attempt no additional hills on my way to the train station which is damn near impossible since the train station is altitudinally lower than my house. So, now I'm freaked out, and for one very good reason: I have never driven a manual car in the snow. After all, what kinds of sickos take vacations TO snowy places? Yes, in college, I drove in snow, but those were automatics, and I recall an especially rewarding skid on a blissfully empty suburban street in the college van.

But, this probably won't be the last time I wake up to a snowstorm and I did have to get to work, so I psyched myself up and got in the car. The driveway was the worst mostly because my anti-lock brakes made a hell of a racket as they complained about the lack of traction. But once at the top of the driveway, even as I gingerly progressed in 2nd gear throughout the neighborhood, it didn't FEEL bad. The nerves were worse than the reality.

Which made me draw the conclusion that I do, after all, know how to drive. It is true, I didn't get my license until I was 19, and I drove pretty much never until we graduated and spent a summer driving. So even though I've been driving, sometimes by myself in foreign countries, for well over ten years, there was always the nagging suspicion that I was faking it. In some ways, I guess, getting the technically harder to drive car was a way of verifying if, indeed, I could drive.

Which I can.

Which is good because I have to get home this evening as well, and you just know everything's going to be ice by then.

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