Third Gear Is Not Your Friend

My little Hissy is not quite a “gutless wonder,” but you can see it from there. To say the least, going from my Fit to The Long-Suffering Wife’s Volvo convertible sports car one will notice a world of difference.

But for a teeny tiny four-cylinder engine, she’s got a fair amount of get up and go. It helps that the red line is waaaaaaaay up there at 7,000 RPM, and while most people freak out and want to shift at about 3,000 K RPM, under the right circumstances I’m not afraid to wind her up to about 5,500 RPM.

Stop and go traffic between street lights does not qualify as “under the right circumstances.” On the other hand, there’s no reason to sit there and pick lint out of your belly button once the light turns green, so I generally step out quite smartly when given the signal to do so.

Yesterday night was quite pleasant as I headed home from work, so I had the windows all down and the moonroof open and the tunes playing. Nothing too loud or obnoxious, but I wasn’t trying to be stealthy.

As I pulled up to a light on Ventura Boulevard, in the lane to my left I saw a newer Mustang convertible. Nice looking car, top down, also with some tunes playing. “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits. The unedited version. A quick glance showed the driver to be a younger guy, shaved head, three-day beard, probably a guy that spent his fair share of time in the gym.

The light turns green and I pull away – he pulls away a lot faster. He’s driving a stick (if I had one thing I would change about Hissy, I wish I had gotten a 5-speed manual instead of the automatic, but that’s another story) and doing some quick downshifting as he speeds up. But he’s not tearing away at 70 in a 35 MPH zone – he’s just accelerating quickly and then cruising.

Which he sort of has to because we’re hitting every single stinkin’ light on Ventura, all the way from DeSoto (where my office is) down to Fallbrook. Every. Single. Light.

So that’s about a dozen times we get to play this game. Green light, he roars off, loudly up into second, roaring up into third, followed by me in my Fit just humming along and catching up about a hundred yards down the road.

As we’re doing this repeatedly, I realize that each time I’m pulling away from the next green light just a fraction of a second faster than the last time. Not deliberately and it’s not a huge difference, but I’m definitely losing less ground to him on every green light.

We both turn north on Fallbrook and again hit every single light. When we get to Victory, for the first time he’s gunning the engine as we’re waiting. The light turns, there’s no one anywhere near us, the road is straight, flat, and empty. He’s off! I’m trundling along behind.

Lots of RPMs, lots of torque! Second gear! He’s pushing red line again. Third gear!

Well, at least the plan was for third gear.

From a couple hundred yards back I see him start to slow and with the car all opened up I can hear the grinding of gears. I don’t know what it was he thought he was putting it into, but it wasn’t third gear.

The Mustang starts to jerk and there’s more grinding. I would have thought that a newer car like that would have a better synchronized transmission, but now that it’s started to act up, this guy apparently is not old enough to have learned how to double clutch in and out of neutral to get synched back up. As I saunter by he’s finally found a gear, accompanied by yet more grinding and jerking.

Unfortunately for him it’s probably first gear, since he’s now engine breaking like mad. Good thing he had his seat belt on. It’s also a good thing that the light ahead has turned red.

He gets his car over into the left turn lane to go into the shopping center. I’m over two lanes now and trying really hard not to start laughing. He seemed like a nice enough guy, he’s got a cool car, he’s got a nice tune on… But none of that means that he wouldn’t come over and kick my ass just on general principles if I’m laughing at his misfortune. Driving a stick in a cool, drop-top Mustang is obviously a macho stud-muffinly thing for him, he’s just blown it big time, and I’m not going there.

But Hissy is laughing. She doesn’t care.

Keep practicing, Money-For-Nothing Dude! You’ll figure it out. But might I suggest a more remote location for practice next time?

1 Comment

Filed under Los Angeles, Paul

One response to “Third Gear Is Not Your Friend

  1. Aw, poor guy. Old enough to dig Money for Nothing but too young for double-declutching. You have to give him good marks for trying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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