Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stick it to me!

So, the Sun-Sentinel reports that manual-transmission cars have fallen to alarming lows in popularity.

Says the Sentinel article: "As recently as 1985, more than 50 percent of male car buyers said they wanted a stick shift. Last year, 11 percent did, according to market researchers, with sales totaling 7 percent of new cars."

As someone who drives a stick-shift, I'm very sad to see this trend. It's a valuable skill to have, as far as I'm concerned (just look at how it handicaps some teams on the Amazing Race when they travel through countries that offer only manual cars!).

I learned to drive a stick as a teenager, when my best friend taught me how to drive her family's Volkswagen Beetle. I remember some grinding of gears and lots of gnashing of teeth before I got the hang of it. I also recall that she swore at the time she'd NEVER teach anyone again (though I think she ended up teaching her kids anyway ... but that was years later!).

My little 2000 Honda Civic has been a wonderful car: Zippy and fun to drive, super-reliable, and -- best of all -- extremely inexpensive to operate. (Manuals are better on gas, and usually need cheaper parts and/or repairs.)

I also believe that stick shifts make you more engaged as a driver, by keeping your focus on the task at hand, and thus making you more aware of the road and your surroundings -- which is definitely a plus in today's environment of clueless and distracted drivers. The newspaper story backs this up with its argument that sticks are less desirable to female drivers -- who apparently need the extra hand to apply makeup, talk on the cell phone, eat, or other really stupid habits to adopt behind the wheel.

No thanks! I think I'll stick to the stick.


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