I drive a Ford Escort SE sport car. The gear shift is manual (stick as some would say). When I first came to San Jose a couple of weeks ago to join Google, I came with nothing more than a suit case full of clothes and important documents. Obviously I needed a rental car to go places, so I took a rental car from the airport. Although I knew I had a choice, I still went with an automatic car, just because I wanted to concentrate more on looking at my maps and GPS unit rather than worrying about shifting gears and working the clutch.
The first couple of days I got used to driving it. Basically every time I wanted to go fast or after applying breaks, my left leg moves trying to find the clutch while my right hand automatically moves trying to shift to a lower gear. This was no fun but I had to adjust. Acceleration wasn't a problem since the car seemed to smoothly change the gears, I didn't feel the urge to change gears. Anyway after 2 days, I started to like it for the sake of simplicity. I can read maps, flip through pages, look at my GPS all the while rushing through traffic. But the fun soon died. I soon memorized most of roads that I commonly drive and so the "automatic" was becoming very boring.
I soon discovered how much I missed my car. A quick email to the movers assigned by Google and a week later, my car was on its way to San Jose. As soon as the truck unloaded the car, I did not spare a minute before taking it for a nice 20 mile ride. Wow! How nice the car feels! I could perfectly time all my maneuvers. The rental car was a dodge caliber hatchback. Not sure what is wrong with it. I don't know if all automatic cars handle this way, but the car does not respond quickly to my pressure on the gas pedal. It takes a couple of seconds and the engine becomes louder (as if it has shifted to a lower gear, perhaps it does) and then it starts to move faster and I can change lanes or do what ever I am trying to achieve. Not so with my car. If I need a quick break out of a slow moving lane, just change gear, hit the accelerator and zip through lanes! The 20 mile drive was so refreshing. I just finished the lap and it makes me feel like I should go take a ride again. Another thing I like about my car is the low center of gravity. It helps a lot when going through the highway loops with out having to worry about flipping the car or the tires slipping. I was constantly worried with the high hatchback. Other fun things about my car are the low steering wheel and a very nice pick up (at least it is much better than the dodge one ;-).
I had a lot of fun driving on California roads after a long time. Next time onwards, if I rent a car it has to be a manual. This post should help me remember it. Picking up an automatic car was a bummer. What was I thinking?