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Driving Versus Steering

Driving Versus Steering

Maybe I’m way too fond of dividing the world into two groups.

But I really believe that when it comes to cars, we are a Balkanized nation.

There are those who see a car as transportation. (I feel sorry for these soulless types.) And there are those of us who love to drive. (We're the fun ones.)

Where some see merely a box with a combustion engine that gets them around town, some of us experience a thrill when we see the gas gauge on full and realize that we could slide behind the wheel and travel hundreds of miles - to a new climate - without stopping. 

We might not do it. But we could if we wanted.

After all, we are drivers.

When I’m shifting gears I feel like I’m actually driving a car. Not just steering it. And I like listening to the engine while keeping an eye on the tachometer to make sure I’m not winding it out too far in any gear.

OK, and if I’m honest, I like having a skill that most don’t possess. 

Because the ability to drive a shift is becoming a lost art. Or so we’ve been told by the smug automatic transmission fans who have been predicting the demise of the stick shift since the 1940s. 

Yet, according to “Yes, Cars Still Come With A Stick,” in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, the demand for stick shifts is holding steady at about 5 percent of the 17 million new cars sold every year in the U.S. Even though there’s no real reason for them to exist anymore.

That’s a large enough percentage that a handful of manufacturers keep stick shifts in production. 

Most of the reasons to drive a manual are esoteric. Yet there are pragmatic ones, too.

Let’s face it, knowing how to shift is the best way to lock down a job as a valet. OK, not a high-paying career, but outdoorsy work and not stressful.

More importantly, a car with a manual transmission comes with a terrific anti-theft device: Car thieves simply can’t drive them.

My current sedan is an automatic. Every morning I look outside expecting it to be gone.

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