'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
NEW CAR HAS LOTS OF VROOM
Yes, that shiny new car in the driveway is mine. Well, not exactly mine. It’s a new company car. But it’s not like there’s a sign on the car saying: “COMPANY CAR. NOT BILL’S.” So everyone will think it’s my car as long as I don’t mention that it’s a company car, for example, in my newspaper column. Oh. Um, disregard everything you’ve just read.
Anyway, it’s a really nice car. And not just because it has approximately 145,000 less miles on it than the car I’ve been driving. It’s also nice because I didn’t pay for it, plus I don’t have to pay the insurance premiums. These features make the car very, very nice.
However, there is one thing about the car that is unusual. It has a 5-speed standard transmission. The last time I drove a car without an automatic transmission was about a quarter-century ago.
But don’t worry, just as it’s true that you never forget how to fall off a bicycle, it’s also true that you never forget how to operate a standard shift car—as soon as someone reminds you what the “other brake pedal” is for.
Within minutes of getting behind the wheel of this 5-speed beauty, it all came back to me. I was smoothly doing all the things I did while driving standard shift cars back in the 1980s: smoothly stalling at stop signs, smoothly lurching away after restarting the car, and smoothly rolling backwards into the car behind me while waiting at a red light on a hill. (I never noticed before, but there are a lot of hills in the Naugatuck Valley.)
There’s no doubt that guys enjoy driving standard shift cars. Males are born with what scientists call the “vroom-vroom gene.” At about six months old, a baby boy will start making distinctive noises that sound a lot like a car’s engine going through the gears: “Eroooooooom—Errrrrrrrrrr—Eeeeeeeeee…” and as the pitch of the guttural sounds increase, the baby’s little right arm will move an imaginary shifter. (The little imaginary shifter is on the floor, of course, as even infant boys instinctively understands that a shift lever on the steering wheel column is not cool; it is instead grandpa’s 1952 Plymouth.)
The vroom-vroom gene is what compels males—whether they are age six months, 16, or 60—to attract police officers like honey attracts bees. (“But sir, even though I was doing 62 in a 35 zone, I have a 5-speed transmission! I was just vroom-vrooming through the gears!” “Yes, I know exactly what you mean,” the cop replies sympathetically, “but you’re getting a speeding ticket anyway.”)
There’s a big problem with driving a standard shift car nowadays compare to back in the 1980s. Back then I didn’t have a cell phone, I didn’t use a Palm Pilot, and I didn’t bring a 32 oz. coffee travel mug with me everywhere I went.
With my new company car I discovered that I simply do not have enough hands. How can I look up a phone number on my Palm Pilot, dial that number on my cell phone, and continue to guzzle coffee when I also need to shift gears all the time?
Something has to give. I can’t drive all the way to work in first gear, and I’m certainly not going to give up guzzling coffee. So I guess I’ll have to turn off the cell phone. If you call me and I don’t answer, just leave a message. I’ll get back to you as soon as I stop vroom-vrooming. Or as soon as the cop finishes writing my ticket.
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