This column is a lie. I no longer drive a stick shift
Do you know how to drive a stick shift?
I received an unnerving introduction to stick shifts when I was 14. My dad and I had been out hunting that day. When we got back to the truck, he climbed into the passenger seat. I asked him what he was doing. His one-word answer was: “Drive.”
What I would be “driving” was a Datsun pickup truck with “four on the floor,” meaning the shifter was on the transmission hump that ran the length of the cabin. I would be working a manual choke and using the clutch while wearing hunting boots, not optimal for somebody driving a stick shift for the first time. Worse, I had never, ever received any instruction on what exactly I was supposed to do.
I understood the theory of a stick shift: Push in the clutch, shift into first gear, give it a little gas and slowly let out the clutch until the truck got moving, then cycle through the higher gears as my speed increased. I had watched my cousin do it as we plowed through the pastures at my uncle’s farm in his beat up old Ford.
But watching and doing were two different things.
I got the truck moving and actually managed to run it up into fourth without any major missteps. Then Dad lost his nerve and asked me to pull over, as we were nearing Freeport and he didn’t want me driving through traffic.
Over the years I drove both automatics and sticks, and developed a pronounced love of the stick. My first car, which I inherited from my older sister, a Pontiac Astre, was a stick, and I drove it for five years. I even taught my friend Scott how to drive a stick in that car – I wanted to see if it could be done without yelling.
My second car, the hated Pontiac Firebird, was an automatic. I ditched it after two years and went back to a stick in my Nissan Pulsar, and I never looked back.
My current ride, a Scion tC, is a stick. I’ll probably always drive sticks.
A manual transmission gives me the illusion of being in control – don’t ask me why. It’s as if I’m one with the vehicle. I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I can drive anything out there.
To this day I still pop the clutch from time to time. And with pedals only a few millimeters apart, my big clodhopper Doc Martens sometimes hit the brake and gas pedals at the same time.
I will know I’ve truly grown old when I switch from a stick to an automatic. My right hand and left foot won’t know what to do with themselves.
Zoom zoom will only be an echo from the past.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .