Manual Process

The other day at work, one of the nice ladies I work with took ill. After much discussion, it was decided she needed to head home to rest and recoup, but she felt too woozy to drive.

One of her coworkers, who lives in the same neighborhood, offered to drive the lady home using the sick lady’s own car, and would then take public transit to her own place.

This was a very kind offer!

But when they got to the parking garage, a problem presented itself.

The car in question has a manual transmission, and the good Samaritan had zero idea what to do with all those pedals under the dash.

Turns out, no one in the office knew how to drive a stick (I wasn’t at work that day), so the sick lady ended up driving herself home…which is a shame.

See, I have a few personal arbitrary rules for the world. One of them is that everyone who knows how to drive should know how to drive a manual transmission.

I suppose this is one of those hand-me-downs from my parents. My dad was adamant on this same policy.

His reasoning for this was, “if you can drive a stick, you can drive any car in the world.” My pops was full of beans on a lot of his own personal arbitrary rules for the world (like father like daughter), but I have to back him up on this one.

When each of us three kids learned how to drive, we learned how to drive both an automatic and a stick, much to the groaning agony of the used four-speed everything manual car we all used to learn (if you click, it was like the one in front, only with purple stripes and no sun roof).

That car was pre-hydraulic clutch. I blame this for the freak strength of my left leg.

But I digress.

I realize that most of the cars on the roads today are automatic. I suppose it’s a good thing, it has made driving easier and more accessible for people. But it’s also a sad turn.

When I moved to the Bay Area, I had a 5-speed Jeep. God, I loved that truck. After moving here I fearlessly bombed all around San Francisco in that thing, up and down some of the craziest hills the City has to offer…

…not because I’m cool or daring or anything, mainly because I’m stupid and didn’t plan my routes better. In the first months of life here, the smell of my own burning clutch was like an old friend following me up and down SF roads.

And let me tell you this…if you are at a stop light on a street that just *happens* to also carry a streetcar, and if you *happen* to stop and don’t realize your back tire is on the streetcar rail…well, when the light turns and you hit the gas…the squeeeeing sound is unlike anything you’ve ever known as well as the smell of your tires AND your clutch as they hang on the foggy air. Yes! That is the smell of humiliation to a country mouse in the big town!

We’ll not discuss trying to parallel park on a hill with a manual transmission…

Ok, sure. One of the reasons that people don’t want to drive a stick is because of life’s little difficulties just like that.

Yeah, yeah…it can be utterly nerve wracking.

But I say, the problem solving and gut-it-out reflexes you have to go through to get that car rolling again are valuable life lessons!

Lessons we all can use.

Plus, if you ever want to buy a really fancy sports car, you are good to go.

Or…you know, “borrow” some farm equipment.

But once again…I digress…

My week, at a glance.

Husband, on the couch, coughing, coughing, coughing…*sniffle*

Feline, on the couch tossing head ferociously flap, flap, flapping her ears and occasionally digging in there with a back toe.

Me, on the couch, blowing my nose repeatedly, in between coughing and sneezing.


Husband: severe bronchitis, bordering on pneumonia
Cat: ear infection
Me: bad cold, trying desperately not to let it become bronchitis

Mood: Crappy

Is this a joke? Am I on candid camera?

Am at work today and my coworkers have unceremoniously shut my office door. They mumbled something like “you are being quarantined”.



Lincoln County Wars

Ah yes, Lincoln County, a hotbed of conflict. Sure, the rancher vs storeowner battles of the 19th century were brutal.

But a bit of a war rages today, and there are no fewer guns involved.

See, growing up in New Mexico, I always knew there were certain places you just didn’t go if you weren’t from the community. Many of these kind of towns are sprinkled throughout the state, places where, if you aren’t from here, just keep on going.

This is rather well portrayed in the books “Milagro Beanfield War” where the young reporter is deposited in the town square and is summarily ignored, has rocks thrown at him and is put up in a small room with rattle snakes.

Or in “Red Sky at Morning” where a young Joshua Arnold witnesses a small town New Mexico Christmas ritual, and summarily gets his butt whooped by the locals.

This is not just the stuff of fiction. Nope, reading Bruce Daniel’s article in the ABQJournal, this phenomenon is alive and well.

See, it seems the good people of Lincoln County are a bit reluctant to be counted.

In the last government census (in 2000), only 39% of the people in Lincoln returned their information. The national average was 64%.

So when information isn’t returned, the census people deploy agents to the field to go door to door to make the counts.

And here is where things are getting sticky in Lincoln County. Folks don’t take kindly to strangers, particularly federally employed strangers, clomping about on their property. In fact, County Manager Tom Stewart went so far as to let folks know that “…some census workers could be perceived as trespassers and be shot.”

Not as a fear tactic, mind you, but by way of warning.

He’s not kidding, by the way.

Now, sure, getting a right count on the census may mean more in the way of federal funding and programs. But that don’t matter to the folks in Lincoln County who just want to be left alone.

Often, I think my fair New Mexico has grown too much, too fast. It’s not like it was, rapidly losing those rare and unique qualities. Then I read an article like this and know that there will always be pockets of people who just won’t change.

In a wry way, that makes me glad. And homesick.