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Pecan Pie for the Mind: Grinding gears and teenagers
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If your church has a prayer-request board, may I ask you to post a little item on my behalf? Write, "Mr. David McCoy, my absolute favorite columnist, is teaching one of his kids to operate a five-speed manual transmission." That’s all we’ll need. Anyone with teen drivers will know just what kind of prayer to offer up. They’ll know there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to teach someone to operate a manual transmission. Yeah, that’s pretty bad, especially if it’s a course offered by the infamous Father-Knows-Best school of hard knocks.

I’m sure many of you have already gone down this path with your kids. You make sure the insurance is paid up, kiss your spouse goodbye, find a deserted parking lot, put your kid behind the wheel, and then cower in the passenger seat and contemplate how much a new transmission will cost. I hate the smell of a burning clutch. And it doesn’t help matters that we’re roasting the clutch in a car that I’ve babied since 1998. Yeah, he conned me out of my fancy blue car. I think he blew some kind of powder in my face right before I lost consciousness and mumbled, "Sure, you can have my BMW. Whatever you say, son!" My reluctant student’s getting better as we practice, but it’s still a harrowing experience to watch someone try to work a brake, clutch, gas pedal, and gear shifter at the same time. And when we try to grab first gear from a standing start on a hill… well, that involves the emergency brake, and it’s best we don’t go there right now.

In a way, I think the video game industry has a great opportunity here. Instead of creating yet another exotic car racing game, what if they created games that taught much more basic skills. I’d buy them. I’d certainly buy "Don’t Burn the Clutch!" or "Smooth Shifting Dude" right now. I’d also buy related titles, such as "Galactic Master of the Lawnmower." And I would pay full retail for "Revenge of the Vacuum Cleaner and Dust Mop." Wouldn’t that be great? Just pop in a game and the kids learn valuable skills on their own? I’m sure teens would love the idea too. I think they’d rather be taught by an inanimate object than a terrified dad who sits in a fetal position in the passenger seat and mumbles, "I can’t believe he’s doing this to my beautiful car!"

David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at