Thursday, July 17, 2008

Desperately seeking fuel efficiency!

I mentioned last week that I'm starting a new job. What I may not have mentioned is that I'm commuting approximately 35 miles both to and from my job each day. Now, it's been some time since I've been a commuter. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love to drive. As a trooper I often put on 300+ miles per shift driving from one end of the district to the other. But there's one significant difference between those days and now: I wasn't paying for the petrol then.

At first I didn't think too much of it. I work longer shifts resulting in fewer days per week so I figured my GMC Jimmy and I would get along just fine. Besides being the coolest little SUV ever, there is another very endearing quality my Jimmy has. It's paid for. That's a very attractive characteristic.

I'd had Jimmy tuned up for the big commute. Clean oil. New air filter. Plugs and points checked out. So this week Jimmy and I head off at dawn like many other commuters. And I'm watching the fuel gauge with a critical eye. Then, a disbelieving eye. Then with a slightly bilious demeanor. The fuel was disappearing faster than Sour Cream and Onion Pringles do in my pantry. At four bucks a pop, the fuel costs will wipe out my book buying budget altogether.

So I happen to let the salesman who just sold us my son's car know that I might be in the market for something more fuel efficient for the commute to the city and keep the Jimmy for winter driving--or when Congress gets off their duffs and start looking for ways to boost the domestic production of oil. (Note to blog reader: I won't be holding my breath in the interim.)

The salesman calls yesterday.

"I think I have the car," he says. "It's being cleaned up as we speak."

"Cool," I reply, not getting too excited. I've been through this before.

"It's a Chevy Cavalier," he tells me.

Domestically built. Always nice to support the home team.

"Sounds good," I say noncommittally.

"It's a two door, bright red with a spoiler," he goes on.

"Go ahead," I prompt, thinking it sounds cute as a bug's ear, but reminding myself there's usually a catch.

"It's very fuel economical," he adds.

"And?" I query.

"It's got a stick shift," he mumbles.

"Uh, what was that?" I ask. "Come again."

"It's got a manual transmission," he repeats.

"Four on the floor," I mutter. The perfect car for my commute and it has four on the floor.

Now, don't get me wrong. I can drive a stick shift. In fact, I bought a vehicle with a manual transmission before I knew how to drive one and ended up attending Bullet Hole Bacus's School of Driving. That was back when my nickname was Parnelli--so named for a famous race car driver, Parnelli Jones. Yeah. I kinda had a bit of a need for speed back then.

I can drive a standard transmission. I just don't like doing it anymore. I enjoy the freedom and convenience of having one hand free to chat on the phone, sip a cup of coffee, or eat a slice of breakfast pizza on my morning commute. (All right. All three at the same time. Don't tell the authorities!) And the idea of driving in heavy traffic and constantly downshifting? Not my idea of a nice quiet drive before a busy work day--or at the end of a long shift.

But for curiosity sake I drive by the car lot on my way home from class last evening and there it is: a shiny red cute as can be car with cool wheels and that nifty spoiler.

I stare at it and picture myself behind the wheel. Okay, so I admit this is a little hard to do considering I have legs that go on for freakin' ever and this car looks like it was designed for Thumbelina. But in my mind's eye, I looked very cool in that car. Manual transmission or not.

So, I'm going out to look at the car later today to kick the tires--and kick the salesman for getting my hopes up only to burst my bubble with a stick shift and four on the floor. I may even take a test drive and try to convince myself driving a stick is like riding a bicycle. On second thought, in view of my recent experiences on two wheels, strike that comparison.

So how many of you drive cars with standard transmissions? Did you learn in driver's ed, teach yourself, or did some kind soul take pity on you and instruct you?

My children say I should go for it and get the Cavalier and I can teach them how to drive a stick, as well.

Hmm. Another strike against the little 'cherry'.

You know. It figures. Trigger Happy Halliday is on the hunt for the perfect guy. And me? I'm desperately seeking fuel economy.

It occurs to me that there is something very very wrong with this picture.

'Til next week, kick those tires and light those fires!

~Bullet Hole~


Anonymous said...

Due to annoying vision issues (like the almost total lack of depth perception), I don't drive anymore. But I never learned how to drive stick, so I'd never be able to even consider the cute little red car with a spoiler.

Kathy Bacus said...

I keep waiting for the government to start up a commuter train system that will take us commuters to work and back home, Tori. That way, I could sit and read both ways and leave the driving to someone else!

~Bullet Hole~

Terri Osburn said...

My father tried to teach me to drive a standard when I was 16. He gave up after one lesson. I was quite relieved. I'm sure I could do it if I really worked at it. But I don't want to. Like you, I don't want to have to work that hard at driving. Life is hard enough without having to shift or start off from a light without stalling my car.

Now, if you find a little red Cavalier that is an automatic, I'd go for it. I used to have one and I loved it. However, the newer ones have too much plastic in the engine so if you blow the head (sorry, can't think of how to say that where it doesn't sound dirty) then you can kiss the engine and lots of your money goodbye.

Anonymous said...

My first car ever was a '61 VW beatle my dad bought for me out of high school so I could go to work. He was going to teach me to drive a stick shift, but went on massive amounts of overtime. I taught myself by going up and down my parents driveway. Had a '81 mustang with a stick shift also. Fun, Fun car.

My husband has a diesel 3/4 ton dodge ram we use to haul our horse trailer. It's a manual, but I only drive it if I really have to. I have to sit up too close to the steering wheel. I'm only 5'2. But if I take it to work on the expressways here in the Detroit Area, nobody messes with me LOL

Sure do miss my little red VW

Linda C

Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks for giving me the 'heads up' on the Cavalier, Terrio (and that pun was intended!). I still can't believe I was crazy enough in my youth to purchase I car I didn't know how to drive!

I guess we'll see how it goes--and how badly I want to see myself in that hot little red car!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Ooo! I love VW beatles, Linda!

And I can see why you'd be a bit nervous driving the Dodge Ram Pickup--and why you'd get some respect on the road when you did drive it.

I'd probably be crushed between two pick-em-up trucks with the tiny Cavalier. I'll feel like Fred Flintstone with my feet dragging on the road. I'm used to riding up high--not at the surface level.

The things we put ourselves through to save a buck.

~Bullet Hole~

Anonymous said...

And me? I'm desperately seeking fuel economy.

It occurs to me that there is something very very wrong with this picture.

Console yourself with the thought you're more likely to succeed. ;)

Keri Ford said...

I learned to drive on a standard. My mom taught and my first vehicles was an '89 Toyota pick-up. And talk about memory kicking in gear. My husband has a '98 Nissan (his work/hunting truck) that I drove the other day for the first time in about 2years. nothing to it.

Right now I'm in a gass guzzling '05 Toyota Tundra. Can't wait to pay it off so I can get in a cute little suv hybrid something.

Anonymous said...

Hummmm -- When I had a Nissan Stanza Wagon, with the cool sliding doors -- on both sides, it was a standard transmission. I really liked shifting for more power going up steep hills and I kept it for close to eight years. However, after all those years of sitting in bumper-to-bumper inch-along traffic of only 5.8 commuter miles, my left leg and foot got tired of keeping that clutch in. On a few steep hills, topped by a traffic light, I'd be the lucky one that had someone an inch away from my back bumper. I thanked my lucky stars for not living in an area with snow and ice. That said, I really felt like I was 'driving', though there were times I coveted a Jetson's autopilot vehicle.

Anonymous said...

A commuter train system would be great here in the boonies!

Kathy Bacus said...

Console yourself with the thought you're more likely to succeed. ;)

Better not let Trigger Happy hear you say that, bookmobiler!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Tundras are awesome trucks, but I can see the need for something more efficient, Keri.

And it's good to hear you had no problem driving a stick after two years away.

Maybe I won't humiliate myself too badly.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

See, that's my biggest concern, anon. The icy, snowy hills. Plus I think I'm just getting lazy. I don't want to have to work too hard to get from Point A to Point B. Traffic is already a bugaboo.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I'd love to see a commuter train, too, Tori. I wish the powers that be would look into the feasibility of such a service.

~Bullet Hole~

Christie Craig said...

Ahh, Kathy,

I can drive a straight shift, but I just don't get very far. A few feet, then jerk, a few feet, then jerk.

I did drive one years ago, but let me tell you, it's not quite like getting back on the bike.

Thanks for the chuckle.

Crime Scene Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

As I recall, I had more than a few 'whiplash' moments back when I was learning to drive a stick, Christie. That's what I'm afraid of. History repeating itself. Yikes!

~Bullet Hole~

Anonymous said...

Every car except my first has been a standard. I currently drive a 1997 BMW Z3 convertable roadster that I bought brand new and hope to keep for another decade. Its a standard and there is no way I want to give up the control the stick gives me (I'm an acceleration junkie). My commute is 20 mile and 30 minutes each way, half stop and go traffic and half highway. And my baby get 30mpg. Some day my knees will get old and give out but until then sticks rule. .... Mo

traveler said...

Better stick with automatic especially on hills, ice and snow. Also a Cavalier is not a recommended car.

Kathy Bacus said...

Your wheels sound incredible, Mo. I can see why you're gonna stick with the stick until the knees give out. I'd no doubt do the same.

It's probably like anything else. Once you get used to driving a standard transmission, it's no big deal.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks,Traveler. I know a Cavalier isn't recommended on Consumer Reports, but it's just the cutest thing.


~Bullet Hole~

catslady said...

My husband drives a '98 red cavalier but it's an automatic. It was my daughter's first car at 18 but here boyfriend ran into someone - just a ding in the front but the air bags went off (I hear they're touchy that way). They wanted to total it because it had high mileage but she was leaving for college that week so they didn't. Anyway in the meantime my husband bought a newer blue cavalier for himself but since our daughter was doing a lot more driving, they traded cars (boy did we get the raw end of that deal - 26,000 compared to 130,000 miles). My other daughter got one too and last year a girl who had her license one week ran a red light while talking on her cell phone - that one was totally totaled. Anyway it's a nice little car but I wouldn't want anything to do with a stick shift - I tried learning on a porsche many moons ago and forget it lol.

Jana DeLeon said...

I hear ya, Kathy! I gave up my FX 45 - 15 mpg SUV for a Suzuki SX4 30mpg economy crossover - AND 0% interest financing. You have no idea what those words do to an accountant.

I also ride share with a co-worker that lives near me. We can't do it all the time but we figure we save at least one tank of gas a month each. Not bad when you consider the cost of a tank.

The perfect man can wait until oil prices fall. :)

Gemma Halliday said...

If it makes you feel any better, I can't drive stick to save my life. And I drive a gas-guzzling SUV. Which means I'm walking a lot more places now.