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Driving While Overseas: The Stick Shift

stick-shiftLooks pretty simple, right? Shift the car from gear to gear as you pick up speed and you’re good to go. WRONG. What seems simple in theory is completely different in practice. This year was the first time I’ve been given a manual car while overseas. Last year I had an automatic car, and the three years prior I was in Turkey and had no need for a car because the team drove us to and from practice/games. This year has been a learning experience, however. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stalled my car. The most difficult part for me was shifting from neutral to 1st. The shift from 1st to 2nd was fairly easy. And the rest of them were like clockwork. And starting on a hill? Forget about it. I still get nervous at a bit of an incline, but I’ve been progressing well with less and less errors to be worried about.

I did have one particularly perilous incident, however. It was one day after practice. A nice sunny day. We had just finished a good day of work in the gym and I was feeling energized and confident. Here starts the story: I hop into my car, successfully shift from neutral into 1st and stay in first because I know I have to go up a steep hill to get out of the parking area for the gym (Sidenote: that was one of the most important lessons I learned. Steep hills = 1st gear). So, like a good driving student, I’m in first gear going up the hill. But just as I’m about to reach the crest of the hill, some lady pulls up and blocks the exit doing God knows what, reversing and fooling around for no good reason from what I can see. So I’m stuck at the top of this hill, my car at a 45 degree angle and I’ve stopped, so I think, ok, I have to stop so I shift back to neutral and put my foot on the break. CRITICAL MISTAKE. Well, if I was more skilled, I suppose I would have been safe doing that. But it probably would have been easier to just stay in first and do that bouncing this that you see cars do on hills…apply some gas, go up a bit, take your foot off the gas, let it roll back a bit, repeat process – so you’re essentially staying in the same place, but at least you’re still in gear and can just apply more gas when you can start moving again. All that is very nice and dandy in retrospect. But I was/am a learner. That knowledge was not available to me in that moment. So I stalled. And stalled. And stalled. Luckily (?) my car makes an intense jerking movement when I stall in 1st on an incline. This gave me just enough momentum to take me over the precipice of the hill to get me on flat ground. From there I was able to start again and successfully drive home, but wow what an experience! Oh, and the icing on the cake was that my teammate was in her car on the hill behind me dying from laughter the whole time…*Insert sideways scowl emoji here*

Shoutout to the lady who blocked the exit from our gym and made me stop – and, inevitably, stall – on a steep hill… -__-

— Miranda Ayim (@AyimWhoAyim) November 10, 2014

That story doesn’t give you much of an inside look at the inner workings of professional basketball on the court, but it definitely gives you a glimpse of one of the many learning processes North American players go through when they come overseas considering that automatic cars are virtually non-existent. Interesting side note, however: learning how to drive a stick shift has been on my “Bucket List” for some time now. Guess I can check that one off! Mission accomplished.

Well, until next time, folks. Much love, and Happy Holidays!

 

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