Holy Stick Shift Batman!
Early summer 2017, my mom had just passed about a month earlier. I was on my way home from work and I decided to take the long scenic route. I had already passed many car dealerships, picking out the ones I would like to own while driving by, as I'm sure we all do. But this one was different. Sitting out front along the roadside in bright red was a Porsche Boxster, first generation, just gleaming in the afternoon sun. Maybe it was fate, or maybe I was just thinking about my mom and how she had passed too soon. Thinking about how I was just trudging through life in that moment, just taking things as they come, not really chasing any particular dream. Whatever it was, I decided to stop and check out the car.
So there it was, bright red with black interior. It had a wooden dash insert that was badly damaged around the instrument cluster, just over 100,000 miles on the odometer. But it was beautiful. Something about this day, about this car was different. Call it a midlife crisis, a knee-jerk reaction to my mom passing, call it what you will, but I had to have it. I had to have THIS car. It didn't matter that I had only driven stick a couple of times in drivers ed some 20+ years earlier. It didn't matter that I didn't need a car. It didn't matter that I certainly didn't need a car that I would only drive during the few summer months we have in northern Illinois. I had to have it. My mom gone, trudging through the rawness of that time, seeing imperfect perfection in front my very eyes was just more than I could bear. It was tearing at my very soul.
Now I have always loved cars. I've loved the shapes, the sounds, the freedom of the open road. I've dreamed of owning everything from VW's to Venoms, from domestic muscle cars to the most exotic hypercar on the planet. I've had one "sports car" in my life. A 1985 Camaro. Not even a Z28. Just a white with red interior 2.8L V-6, automatic. 0-60 in slightly less than forever. And now I'm suddenly very seriously considering a manual transmission European sports car? What was my wife going to think? How was I ever going to put these feelings into words so that she could comprehend the primal need I had for this car?
Well, I won't bore you with all the details of my groveling, but she relented and it was GAME ON! I quickly called the dealer, but the car had already sold, so the hunt was on. I looked at PDK (automatic) options as well as manuals. I found a great Boxster S PDK, but it was already under contract, pending an inspection. This went on for a few weeks until I found my new target. We were heading into downtown Chicago for a family party and the dealer was on the way so we stopped in to check it out.
I had called ahead and said we'd be stopping by to check it out. When we got there his guys were just finishing a wash and wax. She was dark blue with tan interior. Just over 63,000 miles and I was in love all over again. When we got to the test drive portion, I'll admit I was more than a little embarrassed to say I didn't really know how to drive a stick, but he was of course outwardly very cool about it. After all, he wanted to sell the car. He took me on a test drive and I was hooked. I spent the next half hour or so "driving" (more like stalling) it around the lot and I was even more convinced that even though I had no clue what I was doing it was time to pull the trigger so we got down to business and came to an agreement.
We were still going to downtown Chicago so we had to think fast, there was no way I was going to drive it down there so we decided to drop it at my brother-in-law's place before heading in. So with my wife ahead of us and my son in the passenger seat we took off. Now at the mouth of the dealership lot there is an ever so slight incline out onto the main road. I stalled it 7 times just trying to get out of the lot. How do I remember it was 7 times? My son was keeping count. He wasn't saying a word other than to increment the count every time I stalled it. 1...2...3, etc. Talk about pressure, I was sure feeling it. We finally managed to get out of the lot and to my brother-in-law's place and every moment, every stall, every failure was a mix of panic and extasy. I felt alive in a way that I hadn't since my mom passed.
So here we are two years later. I still love that car. I still get "the feels" every time I get behind the wheel. I've gotten better at driving it. I'm not afraid of any situation, not even steep uphill starts, but I never drive it to work. I have a 75 mile commute each way and about 1/3 the distance takes about 2/3 the time. It is stop and stop and stop again traffic. The opposite direction is wide open highways so why would I ever want to restrict her or me? Would I drive it more and/or to work if it were an automatic, yes. Would I enjoy it more, I really don't know. I've thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of teaching myself stick and I would definitely have regretted buying this car as an automatic.
In the end, this car has been great for me mentally. So if anyone ever tries to tell you that a car can't satisfy you mentally, spiritually even, they are wrong. For some people they find peace in music, or in reading or in taking long walks. I find peace on the open road, ironically, its where I feel most at home. So if you are thinking about whether or not to get that car, first ask yourself (and your significant other) can you really afford it. Then and only if the answer is yes and your significant other agrees, get it. In the end, your relationship is more important, but I'm here to tell you that High Octane Therapy works. Even if it has a manual transmission and you don't know how to drive stick...yet.