This afternoon I taught Alex and Kyra how to drive a stick shift. They’re both pretty comfortable driving– after all, Alex has been doing it for almost two years now, and although Kyra only has four months under her belt, she took to it pretty easily. But as anyone who’s done it knows, learning to drive a manual transmission is a whole new ballgame.

I remember how rough I was when I first started: constantly killing the engine or grinding the gears. I figured the same thing would happen with these guys, so I was hesitant to take them out. After all, I love my car and would hate to listen to the poor gears grinding. But Kyra really wants to learn to drive a stick, and Alex sort of accepts it as a useful life skill and thus worth learning.

To my surprise (and joy), both of them did pretty well. Kyra was a little smoother as she started from a stop; Alex tended to release the clutch too quickly and kill the engine. But in general, they did pretty well and we enjoyed an hour circling a parking lot while a few neighbors and dog-walkers watched in passing.

We’ll keep practicing, of course, and at some point we’ll have to do The Test. When I was learning, mom decided that I’d only be “officially” good at a manual transmission when I could pass The Test, which was a stoplight at the intersection of Willott and Jungermann Roads. The light was at the top of a steep hill, meaning as you sat at the light you were a couple of feet in front of the next guy, ready to slide backward if you didn’t get into first gear smoothly and quickly. I passed (although nervous) and haven’t looked back– all of my cars have been manual, and I love driving that way.

I wonder how long it will be before we’re ready for The Test…