“I’ve driven an automatic only once.”

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Quiet morning outside of Dublin. I thought I’d get a post up before our friends’ two young children (11 year old boy and 9 year old girl) wake up. Once they do, that’s it: there won’t be a free moment after! 🙂

In a recent post, I semi-joked about various driving differences between the U.K. and the U.S. In the book, I raise this other reality:

About to leave, standing next to the car luckily parked in the only good road spot she could find anywhere near the apartment, Isabelle double-checked. “You can drive a manual car?”

As we know we Americans love automatic transmissions. Since the 1970s, most learn on them, and most drive them. If you rent a car in the U.S., it is assumed renters expect an automatic.

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Ireland is much the same as the U.K. in terms of driving rules and mentality. In fact, by chance yesterday I had a laugh with “Maureen’s” husband over just this issue. They’re visiting Florida with us in June, and he has reserved a rental car.

He noted that an automatic transmission is not his thing at all. (His words here are best read aloud in a friendly, Dublin accent.) “I’ve driven an automatic only once,” he said. “From Hertz at Heathrow. For some reason when I turned up they didn’t have any manuals. Can you believe it? I didn’t know what to do with my other foot. I had to drive around inside the airport for a while to get the hang of it.”

For Florida, I suggested he phone the rental place and make sure in advance his booking is a manual. He realized his potential oversight when I said it. I reminded him that, in America, a rental car is by default an automatic, so if he feels uncomfortable with an automatic, he had better try to make sure the one he rents isn’t one.

To many Europeans, who learn on manuals and drive them regularly afterwards, automatics simply are not real driving. It’s cheating. It’s like sitting in your lounge…. and hurtling forwards. 🙂

Have a good Saturday!

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