articles / Family life

How a woman conquers a 5-speed

*Disclaimer: Obviously everyone is different…this post is how I’ve heard that most women act when learning how to drive a standard. So if you didn’t do this, I’m not talking to you 🙂 .*

At the end of March we sold my cute little 2001 Mazda Protege in order to save up money for a larger vehicle for myself. Toting around two children in the little Mazda wasn’t cutting it. Besides that, in order to have the money to buy a vehicle we had to cut back in order to save — that’s a decision we made when I decided to stay at home and cut out my income.

Jimmi's mustang...gotta admit it's really fun driving the car once you aren't panicking.

Jimmi’s mustang…gotta admit it’s really fun driving the car once you aren’t panicking.

So…anyway. Since getting rid of the Mazda, we’ve been all four shuffling around in my husband’s 1998 Ford Mustang — yes, all four of us. I don’t know how it works, but it does (barely). The biggest problem with his vehicle (besides that fact that the air conditioner doesn’t work — we’re working on that) is that it is a 5-speed. Now, I’ve dabbled in the past with learning how to drive a standard, but I’d only do it one time and then not have the opportunity to drive one for more than a year. So until now, in my 8 years of driving I’ve driven a standard a total of three times. So I understood the basic mechanics of it, but didn’t really know how to execute it very well.

Of of the stipulations of me selling my car instead of his (aside from the fact that I HAVE to have a new vehicle by September) was that he had to give me a chance to learn how to drive his car. It was finally Memorial day weekend when Jimmi decided to give me a fair shot (I’d driven home one night a few weeks prior). So I got the car started, proceeded to shift into first and try and go — then I killed it. After repeating this a few times I was able to get going. Shifting from 2nd to 3rd to 4th isn’t a big deal — it’s the starts and stops and the starting up again. Don’t even get me started on being at a stop sign on a hill with some jerk on your bumper.

After three days of driving on Memorial Day weekend I finally kind of got the hang of it. I’ve driven about once a week since and am getting a little better every time. At this point I can reverse or get started without killing the engine (unless I get too overzealous and let off the clutch too quickly) and I can even stop on a hill without a panic attack. However, the first few times I drove the car were very difficult.

I told Jimmi that after googling “how to drive a standard” I noticed something interesting — every blog post or informational piece was about men learning how to drive a standard. So the post is about a man, telling other men about his “coming into manhood” experience by learning a stick. Within this lies a problem: Not very many women know how to drive a standard (not many want to either). So for those women like me who want (or need) to drive a standard, we have to be taught typically by a man. Probably our husbands, which could just make things worse. Women learn things differently than men. We handle aggravation and stress differently. This can frustrate both a man and a woman when it comes to a woman learning how to drive a stick. So men, to save you some grief, here are a few steps in the process that *many* women go through when learning how to drive a standard.

1. After the first time we kill the engine while trying to go we might get a little frustrated. After the fifth time of killing the engine we’re probably ready to quit because we’re ready to die of embarrassment. After all, shouldn’t we just be able to jump in and go? Tip: Tell her the proper way to go ONE TIME and then keep quiet. Let her kill it and express her frustration on her own. Don’t get mad because she’s mad. Don’t try to correct her again unless she asks.

2. We will get nervous when we see a car get behind us, especially if we know stops are soon to be involved. Tip: Don’t say, “Oh ignore the car,” or “they’ll get over it.” It doesn’t help. We can’t ignore the car and we’re not worried about them getting over it we’re worried about dying of embarrassment if when we do something dumb.

3. Nervousness will turn into panic when we stop at a stop sign and someone is behind us. We’re trying to go without killing the car (and inevitable we probably will) or rolling into the car behind us and depending on the type of traffic, we’re worrying about going without getting hit by another car because we went too slow or killed it in the intersection. Tip: Don’t say anything. OK…maybe say, “You can do it,” and then go back to saying nothing. Saying anything about how to go or when to go will only make her more nervous. Eventually she will go after she kills it a few times or she’ll calm down and do it when the car drives around her.

4. Panic will increase 10 fold if we stop at a stop sign on a hill and someone comes up behind us. Increase that some more if the jerk decides to stop six inches behind you. She will probably be panicky and shaky and try too quickly which will kill the car. She will then be embarrassed and frustrated. Tip: Don’t say anything. She will then probably try to ease into it more slowly to not kill the car, but then panic because she starts to roll backwards. Chances are she will either start to cry or be close to it. Warning: Don’t say anything. Don’t show your frustration or show any indication that you think she’s being ridiculous. Not only is she imagining what the car behind her is thinking, but she’s thinking about the fact that if she doesn’t get this right she’s going to kill it again or roll into the car behind her and look ridiculous. Eventually she will work up the courage and just go OR the people behind her will get smart and back up or go around. Either way she will feel more comfortable and go.

Other possible inevitables:

  • She will shift to the wrong gear and panic because she will have forgotten what to do or not know why it’s doing it. People will probably pass her and make her feel worse.
  • She will have some weird fear that will make driving more difficult until she is comfortable. For example, I will stop at a stop sign but the idea of sitting at the stoplight scares me. I don’t know why but it does. I’m also not ready to drive through traffic in town yet.
  • At any scenario mentioned above, she may cry or she may yell. She may say she can’t do it. Gently encourage her without making her feel silly.
Just for fun...

Just for fun…

Anything can happen when a girl or woman is trying to drive a standard. It’s new and different and her reactions can’t be predicted. I was sitting at the stop sign with a car behind me (on an incline) trying to drive across three lanes of traffic and I couldn’t go without rolling backwards. I cried after the third time I rolled backwards. Finally I punched the gas and went. This scenario happened a second time, but I didn’t cry and after killing it and rolling backwards the car behind me just moved back. Then once I got going I went from 2nd to 5th gear jolting the car like crazy…the same car was behind me and they finally passed me. There’s no telling what they were thinking.

I’m still not comfortable by myself and I’m still not comfortable driving around town or stopping at lights, but I’m not panicking or considering crying while driving anymore…I don’t even check (as often) to see if cars are behind me when I stop. I’ll get the hang of it at some point — give me a few more weeks.

At least I can now say there is a blog post written by a WOMAN, not a man, and her experience learning how to drive a stick shift.


One thought on “How a woman conquers a 5-speed

  1. Pingback: How a woman conquers a 5-speed | audreyseocafe

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