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Article by Lillian Canini, photos by Lillian Canini and courtesy Honda Canada

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Honda Canada Manual School

I’ve spent my driving years with the automotive equivalent of the boring guy in a cardigan—an automatic. He’s fine, I can’t really complain, but he’s so predictable. No quick acceleration to pass other cars when my lane ends, no gearing down and stopping on a dime. Oh no, not with Mr. Auto. We just cruise along from Point A to Point B.

He often asks me what is wrong. I tell him nothing, but we both know it really is something. I am desperate to try something new. Something cool.

My quest for coolness has brought me to Polson Pier in Toronto one sunny spring day. Here, Honda was hosting their first ever Honda Manual School Event. What did this mean? It meant they had a handful of very skilled professional drivers willing to teach a bunch of novices how to drive a stick.

I approached the day with some trepidation. This wasn’t my first attempt driving a stick. I remember years ago, an old boyfriend thought it would be a grand idea to teach me to drive a manual transmission.

“Oh, what fun!” I declared as I slid into the driver’s seat looking at all the dials, pedals, and gears so foreign to me. After a brief lesson—punctuated with, “Oh you’ll be super, I’m a great teacher!”—I entered the roadway grinding gears and making his car hop like a bunny. At each intersection I stalled his car numerous times as I attempted to make it through the light.

Boyfriend’s face grew redder. Instructions were now given through his clenched jaw.

I was not super.

After some screams (his) and some tears (mine), and some ‘crrkkkk’ (the car’s gears) I managed to hop it over to the curb. He hurried back to the driver’s seat and all my dreams of being the ‘cool stick chick’ vanished. He bought me a piece of cake to soothe my wounded spirits.

And now I am trying again. A lot older, a touch wiser, and this time I have real professionals teaching me. These guys know cars. And the cars they know have manual transmissions.

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