You can take the city out of the girl AND you can definitely take this girl out of the city


As my car edged closer to the core of the city, my pulse quickened and beads of perspiration formed on my forehead.  My hands became clammy and my body began to violently reject the smog it was forced to inhale.  I had entered my nightmare.

Although I had planned well for my entry into the bustling metropolis, I had failed to mentally prepare for the barrage of overwhelming stimuli while simultaneously maneuvering my car through the streets of Toronto.  I had meticulously drawn my route to the convention centre and arrived without incident.  Fleeing the scene of the trade show, however, was an entirely different story.

I should premise this paragraph with the fact that I drive a manual transmission – a gross error in judgement when driving in an urban area. The “quiet” side street that I used to enter the underground parking was a mere memory.  The exit, entering into the maelstrom of the end-of-the-day foot traffic, was a seriously steeply-graded hill and one infused with pedestrians.  Once I had made it successfully to the top and had not made contact with any bumpers or human body parts, I was dumped into the middle of Front Street, not only in rush hour traffic, but in the hour leading up to a major league baseball game.  The pavement was a sea of relatively happy people on their way to a Blue Jays game and I was trying to regain feeling in my leg after trying not to roll back into the car behind me or plow through the pedestrians in front of me.

My calf muscle argued vehemently about the constant clutch action but I continued along the somewhat familiar route searching for the much calmer side street I had used that morning.  I put my signal on, anticipating the upcoming turn and trying to change lanes, and was met with a few honks and dirty looks.  City drivers tend to have no patience for people who have not mastered the art of “offensive driving” and are unsure of where they are going.

After what seemed like a lifetime, I made it through the winding avenues to the much more forgiving expressway.  My heart beat quieted slightly and I no longer felt like I would spontaneously combust.  It was  not until I was comfortably North of the city limits and could see parts of the Precambrian Shield that I felt like I could relax and enjoy the journey home.


Next time, if there is a next time, I will be smart and reap the benefit of public transit to get to my destination.  My blood pressure and my calf muscles will thank me.




Tame the drive, not the driver


I need to put the “drive” back in my drive.   Since the tender age of 17 when I first tested the waters of being behind the wheel of a vehicle, I always had a manual transmission – it has defined my driving experience. Although it was a rocky beginning, we made our way through the rough patches and have forged a bond that is unparalleled.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not going to go beyond my comfort zone and hop into the driver’s seat of a Formula 1 race car yet (although I do know someone who has just done that and loved it!!), but I need to feel like I am in control when I am commanding the power of a vehicle, and shifting gears gives me that sense of efficacy that I lack when putting an automatic transmission into drive and mundanely steering through the back roads.  These roads are meant for driving, and to me, and others who have voiced their opinion, driving an automatic transmission is just aiming.  If you want to really know your vehicle, know how it loves to hug curves, drop from fifth gear to third to pass the chump  law abiding citizen in front of you, that manual transmission is the way to your best driving experience.

The decision to shift away from the only driving I’d ever really known was driven by my choice in vehicles.  (please note the puns in that sentence, I worked hard on those).  At the time I was ready to lease my next four-wheeled experience, I was mad for the Honda CR-V.  I loved every thing about it.  But there was one major drawback.  It only came in automatic transmission.  It was decision that weighed heavily on me, and it took every fibre of my being to make the choice to move away from seamlessly shifting those gears by just listening to the advice of my engine to pushing a stick into drive and moving the steering wheel back and forth.  It is a decision I have come to regret.

Although my lease is only at the halfway point, my go-to guy at Honda is busily looking for a buy out for my CR-V so I am able to get back into a car I can actually drive – not just a vehicle that I can steer and get myself from A to B.  I want to be on the highway again and feel that engine cry for me to shift it from fourth to fifth as those tires burn up some asphalt.

Learning how to drive a stick-shift gave me a sense of freedom that I didn’t realize I had until long after I learned how to master the smooth shifting of those gears.  I could drive any motor vehicle built to grace the pavement.  As a teen, I worked for a property maintenance company that relied on an old pick-up truck as they forged their way into a growing business in cottage country.  The truck had a manual transmission – three on the tree – and I was one of the only staff members that had a comfort level with the truck to be able to drive it.  I took great pride in the fact that I could command any vehicle that I was afforded the luxury to drive, and knowing the subtleties of that manual engine gave me a sense of power.

Never again will I make a decision based on looks and my inability to fight for what I truly want.  My ride has to challenge me.  It has to demand that I put forth the same effort as it does so we may both enjoy the ride from first to fifth.

So jump in the driver’s seat and weigh in – automatic or standard?