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Traffic Talk: Shifting gears is all about synchronization

Don Gammill: A manual transmission brings a little challenge — and fun — to driving experience.
By DON GAMMILL Published: April 23, 2012

Standard phrases.

Standard, that is, in what you hear when you drive a standard transmission vehicle for the first time, or the first time in some time:

“It's just like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how, you never forget.”

“More gas, less clutch. Let out on the clutch while you're giving it gas.”

“Don't jerk us to death.”

“I'm getting whiplash.”

“I think you killed it.”

Years ago, when we lived in Enid, I had an older, full-size pickup with lots of miles on it. It had a big engine, a few rust spots that had been painted over, 2-60 air conditioning (for those who know what that is), a toolbox and a good radio. It also had a four-speed on the floor.

I loved that truck. Whether it was just driving to work, hauling something, or taking my son fishing or to a ballgame, it was fun to drive. It was my big toy. And back then, gas was not unrealistically expensive.

I also had several buddies in Enid who raced cars, from oval tracks to road courses. They had shifters on the floor, on the side of the cockpit, or in other locations. But that long shifter in my pickup was just fine for me.

Learning to drive a standard was no big deal ... for me. I can't say that was true for EVERY member of the family. I was treated to some grinding gears and bounced around the cab more than once as the driver worked on that clutch-gas synchronization.

The time came when I had to sell the pickup. But the memories came back when my son bought his first pickup, and again when he traded for his first sports car. You notice I said “first.”

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