Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Seriously...Who Drives a Stick Anymore?

It all started when Brett had to go to Philadelphia for a
business trip...

The 2000 Nissan Xterra (with 171,000 miles) was just about on it's
last leg. Two-wheel drive, manual transmission, no power windows, no power locks and Brett had spent two summers in Mississippi without properly working air conditioning. This bucket of bolts would soon be headed overseas to a nice third world country as a luxury sport utility vehicle. We're sure Tivo will catch news video of the suicide bomber driving it into the Embassy...and we'll think 'Oh, great! They never took off that Carolina Panthers sticker on the back glass.'

The nail in the Xterra's coffin came when Brett borrowed Heather's Santa Fe for the drive to Philly. Guess what Heather was left with...a death trap on wheels. Unfortunately, the Twin Rivers High School Driver's Ed program never taught the fine pupils there the art of driving a stick. But it wasn't something Heather was every really worried about because really...who still drives a stick??

Well, wouldn't you know it. Heather actually married the last man on Earth driving a manual.

Facing three days trapped in the apartment did not look promising for Heather's sanity. So she started thinking, "Seriously...How hard can it be to drive a stick?" Kicking it into research mode, she first called her mom for some reassurance, watched a "How-To" video on-line and printed out instructions to read while she was driving. Heather had all her bases covered...kinda.

With some parking lot coaching from her 70-year-old neighbor and her instructions taped to the dashboard, Heather pulled out into traffic for a quick trip to the Post Office. It would be the longest 3.59 miles she ever drove! Heart pounding, hands shaking, the whole time sweating like a whore in church and trying to figure out that stupid clutch thing just about did her in. Figuring that it was easier to keep going then to downshift and stop...and then mess with the stupid clutch thing all over again, Heather ran every stop sign and several red lights trying to get to her next stop on the errands list.

This stop: Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Store, near a major intersection of Clifton Park. Got in alright, but getting out was a whole 'nother story. At one point, Heather killed the stupid clutch just as she was about to merge into the major intersection. Take a wild guess at what happened?? The freakin' car died! Not to be rattled, she just decided to sit there patiently and wave traffic around until she could compose herself enough to figure out where she went wrong with her instructions. Two kind strangers did stop to see if she needed any help, one even offered to move the Xterra for her off the road. With a little refresher from her notes, she was off with a squeal of the tires! (So glad we don't know anyone here yet)

By this time, it was a matter of racing the clock. Nearing the rush hour traffic onset, Heather knew she had to make it home, and soon! It took a bit longer than her initial drive, because she suddenly felt really comfortable in Gear 2 and decided "that's where I'm gonna drive." By the time she reached the apartment, she was soaking wet from nerves and no air conditioning. Arguably the most harrowing experience of her life! Fortunately, three cocktails, along with an Ativan, took that edge right off.

And as soon as Mr. Garrett returned home from his trip, Heather loaded him right up and they went car shopping. Officially hippies now, Brett & Heather found the cutest little 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid. It's red, has seven airbags and gets 52 miles to the gallon. And with the mileage Brett receives from Snap-On, this car will basically pay for itself. But the best part...there's no damn clutch or stick shift to worry about!

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