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Stick It To Me

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWhy is it that most countries in Europe car rental agencies only rent stick-shifts? If you should want an automatic it will cost you extra and not just a little extra but a lot. However that is assuming that they have the random automatic for us poor stick-shiftless Americans.
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I can drive a manual shift car if called upon however I am not very good at it and I dislike it. My mouth gets dry, my heart starts pounding and my hands start to sweat. The only thing I can think about is all the potential honking and screaming the might ensue if I stall shifting into first after stopping at a red light. Or the dreaded stop at the top of a hill. That roll-back before you the hit gas pedal is terrifying.
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This is precisely what happened to me in Lisbon. I basically had a nervous breakdown all thanks to a stick-shift. At one point boyfriend thought he had lost his wallet with his carnet de conducir inside, which meant that I would have to pilot our car for the two-week holiday. Talk about a nightmare come true. We had planned to hit the road driving from Lisboa south to different spots in the Algarve and then back up North to Peniche.

Highway driving isn’t so bad because you just keep shifting up– 1, 2, 3, until you get to 5 and you’re are cruising. But city driving is chaotic. Too much stop and go with traffic lights and thus constant breaking, accelerating and a lot of shifting. Add in that Portuguese drivers are maniacs on the road and we didn’t know exactly where we were going we are on the road to hell. On our first outing with me driving I got caught in those nasty, gigantic roundabouts with cars zipping around on two wheels Dukes of Hazard style. I freaked. By the time we reached our destination I was a hot, shrieking mess. I jumped out of the car (not before parking it, the boyfriend had to do that) and stood to the side with my arms crossed spewing obscenities at that ‘’stupid hunk of metal.’’

At that point we had agreed license or not, boyfriend would have to drive or else we wouldn’t be going anywhere that we couldn’t get to by foot, bus, train or taxi. The Gods were smiling down own us because the very next morning as we were preparing to depart his wallet slid out of the hiding place from underneath the drivers seat and appeared. Vacation saved and without the risk of driving illegally.

All of this to say, it irks the heck out of me that car rental agencies wouldn’t offer the choice between automatic and stick-shift the same way they offer the style and size of car. You can ask for a convertible, todo-terreno (SUV), or luxury and on and on.  If anything you would think if they were only going to offer one car transmission type it would be automatic given that anyone, stick-sters and stick-less, would be able to drive it. Budget, Avis, Alamo, Pepecar, Europe Car, are you guys listening?!

Personally, I don’t know if I will ever get my carnet to conducer here. My NYC state drivers license was just renewed last year and the idea of having to do a drivers test in stick. Perhaps when I am in the market to buy, let’s say, a Porsche 911 I will get my shifting skills and confidence up to par because as my dad taught me, fancy sports cars can only be driven in stick-shift. In other words, if you have a Maserati or an Aston Martin in automatic, you’re kinda wack. On that note, Euros got it right but no reason anyone should have to drive a Volvo family station wagon en manual.

Want more travelling without moving? Read more of España Fly’s adventures in Barcelona here.

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