Hello again, dear CEP blog readers. It is I, he who has been shoved down the list multiple weeks in a row: Tristan. I do not, however, begrudge being given the old boot to the back of the line, as it has given me something very worthwhile to write about for all of you. I have a new toy. However, first, a little preamble.
Much like Nick, I have tales to tell of my new car buying experience. Unlike Nick, I have not had the opportunity to have a car all the way through a bunch of important times in my life. I had a different car in high school than I had in college, heck. I even had a different car at the END of college than I did when I started college. The revolving door of vehicles continued through until I got my Jeep. You’ve all heard me expound upon how I loved that thing to death. It took me on my first solo, vacation road trip, it gave me my first experience off-roading (Pre-emptive author’s note, before Andrew can throw in an EDITOR’S NOTE: OBX STICKERS ALL OVER MY JEEP) (EDITOR'S NOTE: OBX STICKERS ALL OVER MY...Wait....), and it made me realize the car really needed some work done. So my dad and I did it. I say it like it wasn’t hard. It sucked. Would I even really prefer to ever do it again? No. However, getting my hands dirty and putting some sweat equity into the car really helped me form a bond with it. Even when all was perceived lost and it seemed to be actually dying, did I let it go? No. It stayed in my garage until I could take a second look at it and has found new life as a family fleet vehicle for knock around jobs of all sorts and stuff at which my dad’s S-Class would turn up it’s fancy, be-headlight-wipered nose. That feeling is probably the closest I’ve ever felt to what Nick feels about the old T-McB. I was lucky. I got to keep the car I loved, AND buy two other’s since then. However, that means I did not have an overly strong attachment to my just-previous car: the Outback. It was a fine choice for when we thought the Jeep was dead. However, after the Jeep’s Phoenix-esque rise from the ashes, it was no longer needed. It was time to find something more fun to drive…
This brings us to the new “toy”. I have acquired a brand spankin’ new 2019 WRX. Because the stingy German runs strong in my family, it is a base model. Power nothin’ but windows, locks, and CarPlay. It’s silver. It’s unobtrusive. And I love it. 258hp and 250-ish ft-lbs of torque will do that for you. It is most definitely fun. I don’t think most people would argue that a WRX ISN’T fun. I’ve been driving for almost half my life, and in that time it has become… blasé. Routine. I purchased a motorcycle to try to bring that spark of motorized fun back. And that works, it really does! But we, as you know by our endless ranting about Road America, do not live where it is warm all year round. So, the motorcycle was only a part-time fix. I have, however, found the antidote: the WRX is a manual.
There have been many articles and blogs about manual transmissions. I won’t try to teach you anything (and be grateful I don’t, you’d suck), I won’t wax poetic about the glories of “rowing your own”. I won’t tell you how much of a loser you are if you’ve never driven one. I won’t EVEN pretend that this is my entire opinion on the subject. I’ve only had it a week. However, what I will do is tell you this: like any good toy when you were a kid, the WRX is a throwback for me. It is a toy, but it is also a… learning experience just like the blocks, coloring books, and Math Blaster games of my youth. It brings you back to the basics of driving. Bad habits you develop driving an auto NEED to disappear. However, in this and many other ways, driving a manual is a double-edged sword. You start noticing the bad habits of others, as well as yourself, and you can’t correct anyone else’s. For every triumph as you master a new skill on the skill tree (+1 MT), you make a confidence-crushing mistake. Matched to some moments of pure joy when you execute the perfect shift, is the occasional rocking embarrassment that is a missed shift. To get slightly dopey for a second, it is a perfect microcosm of life. The ups and the downs, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that having the manual makes the very act of commuting interesting again. “Interesting?”, I don’t quite hear you say. Yes. I chose that word deliberately. The fake Chinese proverb of “May you always live in interesting times” is meant to be a blessing and curse. That sums up my experience with the car so far. It is stressful sometimes, it is pure bliss others. What it always is? Interesting. And a learning experience. These last six days have been some of my most stressful days of driving since I got my license in high school. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Now, bring on the entire fastwrx.com catalogue and stay tuned for more updates from the land of the manual transmission!