A "Stick-y" Situation

Traffic light in the city

​DIY Driver's Ed.

Every 16-year-old dreams of getting the perfect first car: a bold Ford Mustang, a shiny Chevrolet Camaro — even a practical Honda Civic. The 1988 Ford Escort station wagon isn’t exactly at the top of this sweet sixteen wish list, but Esther, LendingTree Autos’ senior product manager, would tell you differently. When her dad brought the station wagon home, she didn’t care that it was nearly twice her age or that it was painted baby blue. All that mattered was that it got her from point A to point B — well, sometimes.

“It had some serious mechanical issues,” she recalled. “I’m sure it had a rough life, and that was before I got a hold of it.”

So with a new(ish) car in the driveway and a shiny license in hand, Esther was ready to hit the road. There was only one problem: The car had a manual transmission. Although driver’s ed didn’t cover stick shift, Esther’s dad offered to give her a lesson.

“In short, it didn’t go well,” she said. “For some reason he thought that yelling the same instructions over and over would help me learn.” The two managed to get started, but after a few close calls and a lot of screaming, they decided to end the impromptu driving lesson. “The car sat in the driveway for a long time after that,” she laughed.

But Esther quickly got tired of not being able to drive. She had the license, the car and the determination — all she needed was to give it another try. Despite her lack of formal training in stick shift, Esther decided to grab life by the steering wheel and drive to her friend’s house. 

“I remember praying for green lights the whole way,” she said. “And it almost worked until I hit a red light only a mile away from my destination.” 

Esther crept up to the light hoping it would turn green, but she had run out of luck and was forced to come to a complete stop. Only seconds later, the traffic light flashed green, inviting Esther and her station wagon to make an unprotected left in front of two intimidating lanes of traffic.

“Of course, when I tried to make the turn, I stalled out right in the middle of the intersection,” she said.

Esther was frozen with terror as she watched the green light fade to yellow and then to red. The cars across the intersection revved their engines and started accelerating at full speed — they had no intention of waiting for this rookie driver to move out of the way. 

“I don’t know how I did it, but in a split second I managed to start the car, put it in gear and escape the oncoming traffic,” she said. 

“After that, I never had any problems driving the car,” Esther said of her first solo station wagon ride. “I guess there’s nothing like the fear of death to teach you how to drive stick.”

This philosophy might have worked well for Esther, who has been driving manual transmission cars ever since, but don’t try this at home. We can’t guarantee that you’ll get the same results!

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