Sunday, November 8, 2015

Changing Times

My stepsister and I were talking about our vehicles the other night, and we discovered that we both drive standard transmissions. That, of course, is a vanishing breed.

I'm not sure when my stepsister bought her vehicle, but I bought mine about a year ago. It was used — a couple of years old — and it was a five–speed standard transmission. I saw it advertised on the internet and went to investigate on a Saturday.

The salesman was a friendly fellow — they always are, aren't they? — and he was glad someone was interested in the vehicle, but he hesitantly got around to mentioning (apologetically) that it was a standard transmission. Was I aware of that? he asked.

"Oh, yes," I replied. "That is what I want," and he seemed relieved to hear that. I explained that I have been driving standard transmissions nearly all of my driving life. I probably wouldn't know what to do with my left foot if I didn't drive a standard.

I guess the first car I drove regularly was an automatic. My mother and grandmother taught me how to drive. We went out in the country — there was a lot of it around where I grew up — and I practiced basic maneuvers. My parents had two cars, one an automatic and the other a standard. Mom felt I should learn to drive both.

She told me that there might come a time when an emergency would come up and the only vehicle that could be used was a standard. In such a situation, it would be good if I knew how to drive a standard. The other people around me might not know how.

That made sense to me — except that later, as I reflected on Mom's reasoning, I thought that, if I had not been the one who drove the standard to wherever this situation occurred, the owner of that standard must be there, too. Wouldn't that person be able to drive the vehicle? It seemed Mom had overlooked that detail. Perhaps not, though. Perhaps the owner broke a leg or was rendered unconscious. Then, by process of elimination, it might be up to me to save us all — or, at least, get us the hell out of Dodge.

So I could accept Mom's reasoning on that. Maybe she did touch all the bases in her reasoning based on what she knew to be true at the time — but she and I both failed to anticipate a time (in my lifetime) when standard transmissions would virtually cease to exist. That seems to be where we are headed. Standards, as I observed earlier, are dwindling. Someday in the future — perhaps the near future — a vehicle with standard transmission may be a special order kind of thing — if it still exists at all.

This vehicle I am driving now may well turn out to be the last of its kind for me. In the future, I may not have a choice about what kind of transmission to have in my vehicle. It might be regarded as a luxury option — luxury in the sense of additional cost.

That will mean yet another adjustment in my life, but that really doesn't bother me too much, I suppose. I've been through that kind of thing before.

What really bothers me is future generations, who are being deprived of more of the simple pleasures of life and not really getting something better — or even just equal — in return.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that pointed out that modern cell phone users will never know the satisfaction of slamming a telephone receiver to end a frustrating call. I'm sure it never sounded as dramatic on the other end, but it sure did feel good, didn't it? Pressing a button to end a call just never has been the same.

And future drivers operating an automatic transmission will never feel as liberated as shifting into fifth gear on an open highway and watching the countryside race by can make you feel.

Of course, these days, there is talk of driverless cars. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It is said that driverless cars will permit their owners to relax, perhaps read the morning paper, while being taken to work by someone who shares the same family tree with Manti Te'o's girlfriend.

I don't think I could relax or read with a ghost behind the wheel.

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