Monday, August 12, 2013

Bumpy ride

So, here we are. I have been a first-time car owner for about 3 1/2 months now. I ended up buying the silver manual 2003 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L for half my budget price. It scares me, so I haven't driven it much. The experience so far has been... exciting, humbling, humiliating, embarrassing, costly, and frustrating.

Things I have learned (and therefore advice for other beginners):

  1. Practice makes perfect! In the beginning it seems like you'll never figure it out, and it's frustrating because you know what you're supposed to be doing, but don't understand how you're actually doing it which is failing... But it really is a matter of feeling and eventually, it will get easier.
  2. If you're going to take your feet off the pedals (sitting in the driveway), you must first ensure that the handbrake is fully engaged, and that the car is in neutral...
  3. The stalling and bucking and skipped gears and general embarrassing mess-ups? They're only funny the first few times. After that, meltdowns may occur, and they won't be pretty.
  4. It's very easy to slip into the wrong gear - I don't know how many times I've thought I was in 1st but was actually in 3rd (very hard to get started this way *sigh*), or jumped from 2nd to 5th.
  5. Taking a deep breath before starting/moving the vehicle helps a lot to calm nerves.
  6. Down-shifting is not necessary, so if you can't get the hang of it, don't bother. But, as with the rest, if you keep trying, it will get easier to figure out.
  7. Even after you get the hang of it, you will still stall it on occasion. The key to getting thru is to remain calm, take your time, breathe, and go.
    Bonus things learnt...
  8. Car parts/repairs cost a lot of money :(
  9. Decaying mouse bodies and nests in cabin air filters apparently don't smell bad enough to notice that there's a problem... (discovered this lovely surprise when I had my windshield replaced last week - gross!)
Yep. It's been an experience. I definitely am not in love with my car. I'm kind of disappointed about that. (How do I know I'm not in love with it? I haven't even felt attached enough to give it a name! That's totally not like me.) Maybe I'll learn to love it, as driving it becomes easier. For the first few weeks (who am I kidding? months...), every time I went by the garage where the original one I fell in love with was... I cried on the inside, and a little bit on the outside... I still wish I had that car instead. But who knows what kind of repairs it would have needed, plus it was 3 years older... And, as frustrating as this has all been, it's probably a better life experience for me to be learning the manual transmission, than it would be to have a peppy little 1.8 Turbo automatic...with 6-CD changer, and sunroof... with leather interior... *sigh*

My only real regrets are that a) I hadn't bought a car sooner (except I wouldn't have had the money), and b) I didn't first learn how to drive with a manual in the first place. I feel that it would have made the whole process a lot easier if I'd have come into this not knowing how to drive at all. Being that I already have 8 years of experience, it was totally humbling to feel like I was starting all over. I felt (still sometimes do?) completely out of my element every time I sat in the car. The concept of down-shifting? Completely lost on me. I've started getting the hang of it now, and I think I do ok, but...

So, as I've said, I'm starting to be more comfortable with driving the car, which is good. But school starts in 3 weeks, and I have yet to try driving in the city with it. The thought of all the lights and stop signs, traffic, hills, parking lots... it's all very stress-inducing and I've been terrified. But I know I'm going to have to bite the bullet sooner or later, and just do it. What's the worst that could happen? Well, I'd stall it. But I've done that plenty of times already. Rolling backwards? I think I have that pretty well figured out, but then again, I haven't tried stopping and going halfway up King Hill yet, either... For sure the first couple times I'll need my dad or brother with me, for moral support, and to take over if I get really freaked out and melt down. It has, unfortunately, happened a few times. Will keep you updated.

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