Driving a video game

Yesterday, in Tigard, I got my bumper bopped.  (Un?)fortuately, it’s not a euphemism; the car in front stopped abruptly, I braked and didn’t hit him, the lady behind me braked and did hit me.

Although the car didn’t look damaged to me, a trip up onto the mechanic’s rack revealed misalignments that would eventually stress my taillight assembly into cracking, among other things.  So he got his body shop colleague over, and today, instead of a perfectly logical ’03 Accord, I’m driving a ’10 Nissan Altima.

This is not a car.  This is a video game.

No substance, no resistance.  I feel like I’m playing a standup driving  game like Pole Position (yes, I’m old. Get off my lawn), in which I move the steering wheel and the car turns in that direction, but there seems to be no physical relationship between my gesture and its response.

The ignition is a push button.  The “key” (a capsule-shaped object) has to be present, and there is a slot you can slide it into that is vaguely keyhole-like and keeps you from losing it elsewhere in the car — but to turn the engine on and off, you push the button.  It lacks only a coin slot.

It has a manual shift mode.  Yes, a MODE, not a manual shift.  And the problem was that I didn’t know.

How was I supposed to know such a thing existed, when I’ve been driving my tough, prosaic little Honda for eight years? There’s an automatic shift track, and at the bottom the lever slides into this other part like a sideways “T”, which is labeled with a “+” and a “-“.

I didn’t know that the lever did not have to go into the T.  It wanted to go there, so I let it.

As I drove, the tachometer climbed.  It was a bit high for my taste, but I figured it simply had a tiny crappy engine.  Then I got above 35 mph and the tach climbed to four and did not return southward.  I was baffled.  I tried that trick where you lift your foot suddenly off of the gas, which usually makes a recalcitrant transmission shift, but it didn’t work.

“Why didn’t you try moving the lever?” Well, I did.  But it didn’t stay where you put it within the T.  I couldn’t work with it and still keep my eyes on the road, so I opted for going a bit slowly.

I got to my house, parked, and decided not to go anywhere until I heard from the mechanic tomorrow, and to call the rental place and ask them to either explain the secret or give me another car with a working transmission.

So a couple of hours ago, my friend called me and asked me to take him to his girlfriend’s car, which had crapped itself in front of the daycare that afternoon.  I forgot about the transmission until I was headed for the freeway ramp, and then…well, faced with 60 mph, even a bitchy transmission would give in?

Noooo! As it climbed toward 6x, I thought it was going to explode itself right through the hood.  I frantically whacked the handle a couple of times as I started to pull over…

…and the tachometer lowered.

What had I done? What had I done?

I had SHIFTED.  Yes, it was acting just like a stick shift, only without any actual power.  Only years of driving stick prior to the Honda had even let me recognize what had happened, and I know some of you are snickering and thinking that I should have figured it out long before.  But who expects that kind of thing in an automatic?  Everybody but me?  Probably.

For the rest of the drive, I knocked the lever plus and minus and moved my foot on and off the gas as I would have in a stick shift car, and got used to it, or as used as I was going to get to a shift I couldn’t FEEL.  What is the point of that if there’s no grrrr? I certainly wouldn’t use this mechanism to shift-slow in an emergency, or do that little low-dump that you use to pour on the speed, or those other things.  The only purpose this feature seemed to serve was to distract my right hand from doing anything useful like steering.

I picked my friend up and dropped him off where he needed to be after showing him the little pushbutton and the nutty shifting thing, of whose like he had never seen either, and on the way home, I discovered that the lever did not HAVE to go into the T; it just liked to.  Left in the main track, it behaved like a regular automatic shift.  It did about as much good as switching between first and third person in a shooter; a different way to play, but you still get your ass shot off.  Or some such metaphor.  Feel free to add your own.

Who knew?  Well, the rental company must have fucking known, but did they say word one to me?  At least I’m safe and did not burn the engine out, though I’ll be putting considerably more gas in it before turn-in than I’d have expected to.

How long have they even had this sort of thing?  What is the point of it?  If you want a stick shift, you buy one.  Or can you buy one, any more, that has any balls at all?

And how do I level?


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