Driving stick: A not-so-cautionary tale

First of all: I’m back from Korea! WOO. Yes, it was awesome. And yes, eventually I will get my butt in gear and write a few blogs about the experience and it’s awesome. For now, have a teaser:

All monks listen to music while they meditate. I guess.

So anyway. Though many of you might have an image of Japan as a modern marvel when it comes to public transportation (this is, for the most part, true), my tiny island is lacking in the, uh, anything train/bus department. So I drive. Point of fact, for the last three years I drove a car with a 660 CC engine. PS–anyone who doesn’t understand cars, that’s less than a 1L size engine. SMALL.

Right now it has 180,000 kilometers on it (about 111,000 miles) and it’s never left the island. The windows are breaking, two of my tires need to be replaced, sometimes the engine sounds like its full of pigeons, and my front passenger seat’s broken, so it slides whenever I go up or down hills. (Or stop abruptly–not safe.)

Every two years in Japan, you have to pay for this thing called shakken: essentially a tax on owning your car. It also requires you to fix anything that’s wrong with it. While it usually costs me about $800US for it, considering all the issues with my car, it’s probably gonna be about $1200 come September.

Luckily! My friend Ava offered to sell me her car for $350. (And it’s still got another year of shakken left! Win!)

Except her car is a stick.

I have NO IDEA how to drive stick.

Before she returned to Canada, she gave me one lesson in a flat parking lot. My main issue right now is going from neutral to first (especially when starting the car), but I’m stalling less and less. However. Today. Oh man. It was pouring outside. Sheets and sheets of rain. I’m on my way home from work, and some REALLY ANNOYING person is going 20km (15mph?) because of the rain. TWENTY KILOMETERS AN HOUR OMG. I’m constantly switching between second and third gear, and I’m terrified because not only is it a) rainy and b) SUPER hilly, but c) there’s a line of cars, with people behind me!

Guys, I don’t have road rage. Right now, I have road TERROR.

This is kinda tame for my actual feelings at the time.

Right before a required stop on a hill, totally shaking, I pull off into a gas station and wait until the whole line passes, including Slowy McEPICSlow. An attendant comes out to check on me.

“Did your car overheat?” he asks.

I let out a wheezy laugh. “No. I’m just learning how to drive stick. And there was a really slow driver. I was afraid I’d stall on a hill.” [I don’t know how to start after stalling on a hill yet. EEP.]

Then he shakes his head and yells to one of the other attendants, “Just some foreigner learning to drive.”

I made it home fine, by the way. Then I knocked on my friend’s door and nearly burst into tears. He told me I was fine, and that the key to driving stick is really confidence.

And it’s true, guys.

Why do I keep stalling when I go from neutral to first? (Or neutral to reverse.): I’m not giving the car enough juice once I shift.

Because I’m being too cautious.

I can be a good driver in stick. I can. I just have to become more confident. I already know how to drive this thing! [Besides stalling on a hill.] Maybe I should listen to some pump-you-up music before I go on the road.

And also keep my hazards on the whole time. 😉

So, any other manual drivers out there? Got some tips? I will also take sympathy/empathy, because that will make me feel like less of a dufus. 😀 😀 😀