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June 19, 2007
I have discovered that the word "standard" doesn't seem to mean what it once did, which was something along the lines of "usual" or, as we would say in this computer-driven age, "default." The thing you get when you don't order something special. But today, a standard transmission isn't standard on an American car. You have to order it. So standard isn't "standard," not anymore. For poodles, maybe. For cars, no.

The man on the radio said that he wasn't sure that Americans would do the things we need to do in order to save fuel. People won't buy the cars that save gasoline, he told the interviewer. They won't buy cars with standard transmissions.

Now just a goldarned minute.

A driver who won't drive a stick shift is a wimp. One who won't learn is a sissy. Male or female, I'm talking about. I'm sorry, but there it is. If you don't know how, have somebody teach you. Or at least have the decency to pretend you do, and pray that nobody ever calls your bluff.

There are a few things people just need to learn to do. Maybe it's not so much the stick shift itself as what it symbolizes: we need to become a lot more able to make do than we currently are, and we may need to do it fairly quickly. Less dependent on our luxuries -- they are not necessities. If you can't drive a stick shift, you'll be that much less use in an emergency and that much more dependent when other people may need you to stand on your own two feet. If you can't swim, how are you going to save anybody else in an emergency -- or survive yourself, for that matter? If you can't cook, what are you going to do if there are suddenly no restaurants?

The time may come when what you don't know really can hurt you. It can come at any time, into anybody's life. It would be good idea to get ready now.
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