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home : opinion : letters to the editor May 26, 2016

3/1/2013 5:47:00 PM
Outlook Soap Box - Being in the know is not a laughing matter
LuAnn Morgan

I recently heard a news report about a man who almost had his car stolen. I imagine he was pretty shook up when two men pulled a gun on him and demanded the keys to his Corvette.
That shaking soon turned to laughter as the men couldn't figure out how to start the car. The victim told them to push in the clutch four different times. The thieves finally fled the scene.
The problem, it turns out, was the carjackers couldn't drive a standard transmission. They had no idea how to manipulate that stick shift.
I found out this isn't a one-time occurrence. Seems this sort of thing is fairly common. Apparently, kids these days don't learn how to drive a standard tranny in drivers education.
That's too bad, actually.
I remember a time when I was a teen and a family friend called to ask if I would drive his daughter's car to the repair shop. The mirror had fallen off and he, of course, couldn't drive both the Gremlin (yes, it really was a Gremlin) and his truck at the same time.
When he arrived to pick me up, he handed me the keys to his truck. I was a little intimidated because he had a huge Ford pickup with a gigantic camper on the back. Well, I hadn't driven anything other than a car at that point, so I wasn't quite confident enough to tackle that big rig.
He told me everyone should take advantage of any opportunity to drive different vehicles because you never know when you might need to know how to do that. What if there was an emergency and the only thing available to drive was something you were unfamiliar with?
That goes for standard transmissions, too.
I learned the basics in drivers ed and I had a friend in high school who had a 1969 Dodge Super Bee with a 4-speed tranny. That's the car I used to practice shifting gears.
Naturally, many of the muscle cars of my day had those four-on-the-floor shifters, so most teens knew how to drive a stick shift. What about now? With so many small gas-saving cars, most kids probably never get the opportunity to drive standard transmissions.
So, really, is the thwarted car theft still funny? Maybe not. What would a young person do in the case of an emergency? By the time they called someone, the situation might have escalated and help may be too late.
Parents, rent or borrow a vehicle for your kids to learn to drive a stick shift. Better yet, maybe their first car should be a standard transmission. There might be the added bonus of not having to worry about it being stolen.
You just have to worry about them getting hit by another car as they're standing in the middle of the road laughing at a would-be car thief.

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