When my husband and I bought our 1996 Chevrolet Suburban, our main goal was that we would use it to bring my precious Mazda2, with its expired plates, back from Canada to Texas when the borders opened. That hasn’t happened, and it’s looking all the more likely that there’s going to be a period of time where the ‘Burb is in Canada and I have nothing, so we’ve been shopping for a daily for me that’s under $3,000 and can be easily flipped later. We’ve decided on a manual 1996 Pontiac Firebird. There’s just one problem: I can’t drive stick.
I know, I know. I can already see the comments that will lambast me for not knowing how to drive stick. It’s happened before, and it is miserable each time. “You should know how to drive stick to even qualify for a job at Jalopnik,” some of you will cry. And I get it.
It’s not like I haven’t made an effort. I learned with a friend (very briefly, like literally a two hour lesson in 2017), but as it turns out, very few people are willing to actually give me a shot behind the wheel of a manual vehicle if I don’t know how to drive a manual. So, I’ve remained stagnant.
So, as my husband has proceeded to send me the same listing for the same 1996 Pontiac Firebird for the past few weeks, I finally asked him what’s going on.
“It’s just $2,200,” he’d plead. “It’s in the budget. It’s, like, perfect.”
“This is supposed to be a daily driver for me, right?” I would ask. “The car to tide me over while I wait for both of my cars to come back to Texas?”
“Then tell me how I’m supposed to go pick it up when it’s a manual transmission, I can’t drive stick, and you’re not even in the country.”
Radio silence. And then, a few hours later, a protest that it’s still a damn good car.
The listing is also short and sweet. As per the seller, this Firebird includes the following: “5 speed manual v-6, new tires, CD player, a/c blows cold, runs great.” It is reportedly in good condition. Crucially, it also has that beautiful blue bird painted on the hood.
So I looked at the listing again, and I saw that it offered delivery. I sighed. I called my husband. “If you can get it delivered to me, you can buy it.”
As it turns out, the seller will be delivering us this vehicle, which we will be purchasing sight-unseen and which I will then proceed to attempt to learn how to drive so that, when my husband leaves with my sweet, beautiful ‘Burb in January, I’ll have a vehicle that I can use to get groceries in.
I feel like my reasoning is solid, even though I am admitting that with a soul-crushing weariness. I am, frankly, tired of not being able to drive stick. I’m tired of everyone who offers to teach me to drive stick backing out at the last second because I can’t already drive stick. I’m tired of my rental car options being limited when I travel abroad. I’m tired of my press trip opportunities being limited.
And I am also a lot better at learning something when I can do it alone. My best stick-shift teacher was former Jalop Alanis King, who was encouraging and patient. I was also learning in a press car that we were then told to stop using because I might break it. Having my own vehicle that I can practice in all the time at my own risk on my own property all by my lonesome may just be the thing I need to finally make the manual lessons stick.
So, consider this the beginning of a new era of Elizabeth Blackstock — and a whole new series of blogs where I share my trial and error as I get used to that third pedal.