I learned to drive on my dad’s old manual S-10 pick up truck. Had someone told my sixteen year old self that someday I would consider driving stick a skill worthy of a résumé, I would have laughed. Actually, I probably would have scowled. I resented having to learn stick, but it was learn or find a friend willing to drive me around.
As a kid, I loved “driving” stick. Whenever I rode anywhere with my dad, I’d ask to shift gears. He’d push in the clutch and tell me when to shift. Riding in dad’s truck was the best! At some point I out grew that game and my fascination faded.
It was my dad who eventually taught me how to drive stick. Those of you who know me and my dad are probably wondering how we both survived that experience! The first time he took me out driving, he parked the truck on a hill, facing up, and let me stall out all the way down. Then he drove back to the top and faced the truck down the hill so I was actually able to get going.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my new skills. I still wasn’t crazy about the truck, but the fact that I could drive manual impressed all the boys. For a teenage girl, that’s all that matters in the world, right? When the time came for me to buy my own car, my only requirement was that it be manual. Automatics now bore me. It’s also nice because no one will ever ask to borrow my car.
As I started looking for farm positions, I was surprised to find that 9 out of 10 farms/programs either required or gave preference to candidates who could drive manual transmission. What good luck! Fate had been preparing me for farming for years and I had no idea. What was once a novel and mildly impressive (but largely useless) skill suddenly became a key asset.
You see, real tractors have clutches. They don’t really drive or handle like manual cars, but the principles are similar. The idea that there are gears and that you have to depress the clutch to move between gears, etc. applies both to tractors and cars. The knowledge has certainly been useful.
One thing my dad liked to do when he was teaching me to drive was to show off his own skills. He’d been driving stick his whole life and was so familiar with it that he could actually shift gears without using the clutch. Being the
competitor daughter that I am, I knew someday I’d be able to do the same.
On Sunday, I succeeded. I can now drive my car without the clutch. Well, I still need the clutch to start the car and all, but once I’m moving I can get all the way to 5th gear without ever touching the clutch.
I realize this has very little to do with farming, other than the tractor tie-in. I just felt compelled to tell the world about my new worthless, but oh-so-impressive skill.