Expand search form

A Grin at the End: No shiftless teens at our house

Carl SampsonBy Carl Sampson

The clutch is the Rodney Dangerfield of auto parts. No one really wants one, unless it is attached to a means of transportation. Teenagers — mine in particular — hold a high level of contempt for clutches.

In my house, I have a rule. Before you can get a driver’s license, you need to take driver’s education — and learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission.

This rule originated with my dad. He said that no one could be a good driver without knowing how to change a tire and drive a car with a manual transmission.

I agree. Too many drivers are cruising around who have no clue about how a car works. They seem more concerned with the CD player or their cell phone — yep, they ignore that law the legislature recently passed — and wouldn’t know a transmission from a radiator.

Having had that drilled into my head, I have been drilling it into my kids’ heads as soon as they get the itch to learn how to drive.

That is why I am sitting in a 1987 Honda that is shuddering and bouncing up a down like it is doing the Macarena.

It’s manual transmission night at the Sampson household. Our 15-year-old recently got his learner’s permit. I’ve been driving with him several times a week, and he’s done fine with the car that has an automatic transmission.

I decided that it was time for him to advance to the Big Time — a manual transmission.

This is not an easy thing for some folks. Two of his older brothers managed to learn how to use a clutch.

The oldest had a terrible time. I thought the clutch and the transmission were both going to explode before he got the hang of it.

Thank goodness, the other brother bonded with the clutch almost immediately.

Now it’s our third son’s turn to learn the art of the clutch. Our classroom is the Stayton Business Park, which after hours is quiet and has little traffic.

“Rev up the engine and slowly let out the clutch.”

The engine stalls.

“That’s OK. Start the engine and let’s try it again.”

The engine keeps going, but the whole car starts to shake as though it is possessed.

“Give it some more gas. … Not that much.”

We lurch forward in three giant leaps. The engine dies again.

“You’re doing fine.”

Encouragement is in order. I explain how a clutch works.

He tries it again.

The car starts smoothly from a standstill, and before you can say Lady Gaga needs a fashion consultant, he’s got it second gear.

You can see the look of relief on his face. Mine, too.

We do a few laps around the business park and head for home, mission accomplished.

As we pull into the driveway, only one thought lingers. We still have one more kid. He’s 13, and I know he’ll eventually learn to drive.

Using a clutch.

I think I can handle it. I just don’t know if the car can.

Previous Article

Silverton Flywheels: Car club races toward half-century mark

Next Article

Men’s choir from Germany entertains at concert, dinner in Mount Angel

You might be interested in …

Classical music: Expanded monthly series starts next month in Silverton

By James Day Classical music fans in Silverton will be getting a double treat of First Friday concerts next year. The series at the Silverton United Methodist Church is moving from once every two months to monthly starting in January. “Our intentions have been to enrich the cultural life of Silverton through offering a venue for mostly classical performances, making […]

Football flashback: Foxes, Trojans make playoff runs

Silverton High turned in a 7-4 football season under first-year coach Josh Craig and came within 57 seconds of advancing to the Class 5A semifinals. “We’re very proud of these guys,” Craig told Our Town. “We couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.” Silverton turned in a stirring 24-0 second-half domination of Thurston in a 31-14 round of 16 […]

People Out Loud: Thankful in many ways

By Dixon Bledsoe I am thankful for autumn leaves. Not so much to rake them but in the beauty and serenity they provide us. Leaves are a little bit like relationships – they can bring us smiles and are there with dazzling colors when the days shorten, rains return and temperatures drop. But they take work. Take care of your leaves […]