“You’re not really driving unless you drive a manual.”
It’s a sure bet I’ll hear these words once I share my preference for automatic cars. And it’s not just the men I’ll get an earful from either.
Many ladies also frown upon a guy who prefers to roll with an AT ride. Not even my burly physique can shield me from the weird looks and the instant automotive sermon.
Having been in this situation more times than I can count, I’ve observed the following:
1. Men will harp about being the one in charge when driving a stick shift—you control the gears and therefore you’re the boss.
2. Women will often take a jab at how unmanly driving an AT is.
Driving manual is often equated to being a real man. It’s as if being in control of the gearstick is a legitimate measure of manhood. Let me quote Nadine Lustre: “Come on, guys…it’s 2017!”
When it comes to my transmission type of choice, it’s more about personal comfort. And in this Age of Carmageddon, I plan to keep driving an automatic.
Like you, I used to also row my own gears with a hand-me-down 1994 Toyota Tamaraw FX. That vehicle was a joy to drive: It had a smooth clutch and when the road was open, it was a trusty people-hauler.
I continued to enjoy driving stick until one evening in December 2007, when I experienced Christmas-rush traffic—the kind that would make you question the meaning of life. After spending a total of four straight hours on the road from Greenhills to our place near Cainta, my left leg felt like I’d just done countless reps of single-leg squats.
That was 10 years ago. Driving on our roads daily now feels like that 2007 Christmas rush. And I’m happy to report that despite helpless hours spent in traffic these days, my left leg no longer feels sore unless I actually do single-leg squats.
After switching to an automatic daily driver in 2008, I find that no matter how bad traffic jams go, my legs manage to get some stretching in between. I can’t say the same for my manual-driving friends who often complain about all the clutch-stepping they do while stuck on EDSA.
So, am I not truly driving since I drive an automatic? I don’t think so. Piloting a vehicle, be it a manual or an automatic, is a responsibility. How you do it on a daily basis should be the true test of your ability as a driver.
When it comes to my transmission type of choice, it’s more about personal comfort than anything else
If you can take your loved ones from A to B safely, drive within your lane day in and day out, and don’t disobey traffic rules even when it’s three in the morning, then you’re a good driver. These are more tangible metrics by which you should be judged not only as a driver but more so as a person.
“But you can’t push-start an automatic,” manual purists would argue. Yeah, but car breakdowns happen when you’re not diligent with maintenance—another indicator we can use to judge a car owner’s character.
And for those who will tell you that manual vehicles save you more on fuel costs, maybe they’re not as informed as they would have you believe.
A manual transmission is shifted by humans. Can your own timing really be better and more efficient than the fluid-shifting mechanism of an automatic gearbox? With cars equipped with computers nowadays, you can be sure that fuel efficiency is better achieved by an automatic shifter.
Which brings me back to this: Is true driving only experienced by manual car users? No, it isn’t.
I drive responsibly from A to B. I also follow traffic rules even at 3am. I do my best to maintain my daily ride. And I’m on the road for more or less four hours daily.
You can’t tell me I’m not really driving. I just want to be comfortable. All that clutch work required of a manual driver would be tiresome in my daily traffic grind. Unless you really need to build more muscle in your left leg.