One little detail about my fine new vehicle (the Renault Scenic) that I have not previously mentioned is that it is a stick shift, or manual transmission. Manual transmissions are the norm in Denmark and all over Europe because they are cheaper to buy and own, using less gas and requiring less maintenance–or so I’ve been told.
The fact that my new car is a stick is pertinent because I have never in my life driven a manual transmission car for a prolonged period of time.
My dad taught me to drive one–kind of–when I was 15 years old. The location: the local cemetery. The car: a Dodge Shadow (ours was nicknamed “The Green Hornet”). It looked very much like this one, and was considered old and boxy-looking even back then:
Here’s the interior, just as I remember it…
We had another vehicle–an automatic–which I preferred to drive, so I was able to pretty much avoid the Dodge Shadow.
When I was 16, I drove a manual transmission vehicle again for a month or two…until I wrecked it. I’m going to leave it at that and never speak of it again, but this is kind of what it looked like (it was an old Suzuki Samurai):
I blamed the wreck on the car being a stick shift (and me still being a manual-transmission-driving novice) and so, from that point on, I decided that manual transmission vehicles are just not for me. And with plenty of vehicles in the world that are not a stick, why bring up old trauma? Besides, I really just don’t see the point. It’s so much extra effort for virtually the same result. All that shifting and pedal-pushing also seems so distracting, and when you’re driving with kids in the car, you already have plenty to distract you. As far as I’m concerned manual transmission makes sense for like, a race car driver, and that’s about it.
Even with my, what might be stretched to be called “phobia” of driving stick shift vehicles, John has always insisted on owning one for his primary vehicle and I have, with the exclusion of a couple of emergencies, always managed to avoid driving it.
When we were car shopping a few weeks ago here in Denmark, both of the 7-seaters on the lot were manual transmission. When I spoke up timidly about this minor problem, John, who had apparently had enough of my stick-hating-nonsense, told me, “This is Europe, everyone drives stick. You’ll just have to learn.” I was in my full, “going-to-have a-good-attitude-and-try-new-things-and-make-it-work” mode, so I agreed on the car, since it was priced right and met our needs.
Jan, the car salesman, backed John up, saying I would learn in no time: “2 weeks, 4 bumps, that’s all it takes!”
Well, I’ve definitely experienced the 4 bumps, so I guess it’s just one more week to go and it will be smooth-sailing [driving] from there on out!
To my chagrin I discovered after the fact that the Scenic is actually one of the few vehicles here that commonly has a fully automatic mode…go figure.
I still would not say that I feel “comfortable” driving my new car, but I do think it’s getting easier, and each day I am able to relax just a bit more, and concentrate just a little less. I am trying very hard to have a good attitude about this new endeavor, and, on occasion, I have been surprised to find myself thinking, “You know, this isn’t half bad, this manual transmission.” And yes, as I have navigated smoothly along the winding, narrow streets of the Danish countryside–to my left the dark, choppy waters of the fjord and to my right the tall, graceful windmills churning slowly against the cloudy sky–I have even felt a little bit like a race car driver.