Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So That's What That's There For

When I started driving, you drove by sound. The whine of the engine told you when to shift. You knew how much strain you were putting on the motor and when you reached the appropriate moment to back off. I can’t even hear my engine anymore. Has nothing to do with my ears, the thing’s just too quiet. In the old days you wanted your pipes to rumble, now they just hum. When the windows are up and the radio’s blasting, I can’t even tell the engine is running, much less when to shift (I drive a five-speed). To help, I have gauges that tell me what I need to know. I watch my tach and speedometer. These tell me how much strain I’m putting on the engine and how close I am to my suggested speed per gear. I can’t drive without them.

Yesterday, however, I was getting on the freeway in Houston. It was pouring rain, cars were all over the place, and one of my sons called. There were so many distractions I forgot to make my final shift. I had gone nearly to the other side of town and had no idea my engine was straining as it was. I glanced at my speedometer. I was within the limit. Then I looked at my tach. It was much higher than usual for this speed. I reached for the gear shift and made the change. You could sense the engine breathing a sigh of relief to get over the strain.

Usually in periods of personal strain, my tach is telling me to shift, but my distractions, stubbornness or fear is keeping me from doing so. All I know is if you keep revving your engine beyond the point where it needs to adjust, something’s gonna blow. Before it does, make the shift. That’s why you have a transmission in the first place.

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