Shiftin’ through life … every day

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2017

When Maybell was placed on life support a year ago and I was in the position of having to consider buying a new car, my friend Weezer was adamant that I buy “anything with an automatic transmission.

I bucked at that. I’ve always driven a stick shift. I learned to drive on my granddaddy’s Farmall tractor.

My cousin, Jimmy, and I took turns mashing in the clutch and turning the steering wheel while the other changed the gears on the shifter that was mounted on the floorboard.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The old Farmall had three forward gears and a reverse that we never used because we didn’t know how to get in it.  We rode all the pig-trails around home, mashing and shifting.

I just like shifting gears. I feel more in control. And, being the stingy gal I am, a stick shift gets better gas mileage.  Weezer admonished me in a mocking voice, “Go ahead and you’re gonna be niiiineteeeey yeeears oooold, triiin’ to shiiiift the geeears.”

What a happy thought – to be 90 years old and still driving and shiiiiiftin’ gears. With the probability of having to take Maybell off life support, I gave in and bought a car – a car with a stick shift. I took great joy in taking Weezer for a ride. I’d shift when I didn’t even need to shift. “As smooth as silk,” I’d say and shift one more time.

Then, just last week, I had to have a little “procedure” done on my arm.

My friend Bannie rode to Montgomery with me for the procedure. Then, the idea was to meet a big city friend for lunch.

The procedure went well until the doctor said, “Now, you don’t need to use this arm and certainly not in a way that it will twist or bend. “

I always twist when I shift.

“But I have a stick shift….?”

I don’t think she had a clue.  I explained. “I have to change the gears manually …”

And, yes, I had someone with me. And, yes, she could shift gears but, no. She would not think of driving a car with a manual transmission in Montgomery at the noon hour. She’s not that shifty.

The doctor didn’t verbally say that was my problem. But I assumed that it was when she closed the door behind her.

Bannie bucked. She was not about to jump and jerk us all the way to the Texas Roadhouse at a time when every car that was licensed in Montgomery County was on the road.

I leaned on past experience. I would mash in the clutch and steer the wheel and Bannie could shift the gears.

That’s the way we pulled out of the doctor’s parking lot that day – mashin’ and shiftin’.

I was in command.

“Okay, shift! Down! Shift – up, over and up!”

Bannie had also learned to drive on a stick shift but it was a three speed. Billie Sunday is a five speed so I had to give shifting instructs until she got the hang of it. Off we went. To the Roadhouse we go!

Mash, shift! Mash, up, over and up. Mash, down!”

Bannie asked, “Where’s reverse?”

Some things are better, and safer, not known. I didn’t want her to get in reverse.

Our friend was surprised when “we” came driving up. After a fun lunch, the duo drove home like a well-oiled machine – mashin’ and shiftin.’ I called to let Weezer know how the procedure went and to let her know that even when I’m niiiienty yeeaars ooold, I can still drive as long as I can mash and a friend can shift.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger.