Another unexpected lesson from learning to drive stick.
While having dinner with a friend recently, he shared one of the key pieces of manual transmission advice that had been handed down to him by his father: always leave the car pointed homeward.
When you pull into a parking lot or driveway, orient the car so that you will be able to head home when the time comes. Those of us who are accustomed to driving an automatic transmission vehicle have no qualms about pulling in any which way, confident of our (really, our car’s) ability to go into reverse and take us out in the opposite way that we came in.
But when it comes to driving a stick-shift, you’ve got no such guarantees: going in reverse is often challenging. No one–even the most seasoned drivers–wants to have to back up a steep driveway in order to get back out on the road.
And you never know what might happen in the meantime while you’re away from your car. Weather–torrents of rain or snow–might come in. The sun might set and darkness pervade. No one wants to back up a steep, wet driveway in the pitch black of night either.
It’s much easier to turn the car around when you’re first arriving so that you are pointed homeward and able to head out when the time comes.
I wonder how often I come flying into a parking lot, throw the car into park, dash off with the keys, and never give a second thought to how I’m later going to be able to get out. It rarely worries me, and, as I’m not still sitting in some parking lot somewhere, I guess it’s never resulted in the disaster of being marooned and unable to get home.
But now that I’m trying to take things into my own hands a bit more, keeping control of the clutch and gears, I am much more aware about always leaving things so that I am pointed homeward. I don’t dash off thoughtless and ignorant about the ramifications of where I’m leaving things. I am intentional about thinking about the future demands that will result from my current parking choices.
Always keep things pointed homeward. It takes some extra work and intentionality now, but the benefits are well worth it. Sure, it would be nice not to have to think about the future how’s of getting home, but that’s not a luxury that exists. This is not the end. There is another destination to come. And for me to forget that and dash off will only result in frustration and heartache later.