I spent a good part of the early afternoon walking around an automobile agency looking at cars to replace the one I’m driving now. I dread this. But it’s the price one pays for leasing rather than buying.
The last time I did this — about 4 years ago — I drive my (their) RAV-4 back to the Toyota dealer to exchange it for another one, similarly equipped. It was our third one. Cars don’t mean much to me. All I want in my car is reliability, some level of comfort, and economy. For a long time, those three basic virtually defined Toyota.
I have one indulgence: a sun roof. And I want a manual transmission.
Since 1986, when I drove home my very first Toyota (a little black Corolla GTS with an unbelievable engine), I’ve had nothing but stick shifts. Guido and I have to be the only remaining American household with two manual transmission vehicles. And PS — I drove that Corolla for 20 years before I totaled what was left of it.
Long story short: there are no more manual transmissions. Not in the RAV-4, anyway. Now they have some gigundo thing that looks like a Humvee which can be bought equipped with a stick, but it’s ‘way out of my budget and it drinks fuel like a garage drain.
That’s how I ended up last time driving the single ugliest car on the road: a Scion XB the color of moldy Gulden’s mustard. It was okay — stick shift, sun roof, plenty of room, and got ‘er done, but I don’t want another one. It’s not even that 4 years later people still point at it to giggle and sneer. I want the SUV style and functionality of the RAV-4. So it looks like my gear-shifting days are over.
Why stick shifts have become endangered species is completely beyond me, especially when the price of gas is $4/gallon, but then again, I was delighted using DOS and WordPerfect, and I prep to shave with a mug of shaving soap and a beaver tail brush. I was an old fart years before I got old. I was born an old fart. I want to shift gears. So sue me. Or just point, giggle, and sneer. Say — isn’t that an accounting firm?
But I suspect this era is about to end. I will go back to my former practice of braking with my left foot, and keeping the car in gear down ramps and approaching stop lights. I will slow down and brake before rounding corners instead of down-shifting. What a drag. How lazy. How American.
Makes me wonder who the old farts really are.