My Stick-Shift Story

Camille Radhakrishnan has a skill you probably don’t.


Alexis Radhakrishnan

Driving her Jeep Cherokee, Camille has no problem switching gears.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler that has a manual transmission in which I literally use a stick to change gears. Most people refer to this as a “stick-shift” and it’s astounding how many students have no idea how to drive one.

When people discover this about me, there are typically three questions that follow: 

“Why do you drive a stick-shift?”

“Do you like driving stick-shift?”

“Is driving stick-shift difficult?”

Many are impressed that I drive a stick shift. After all, only 18% of people in the US have this skill. I think people are astounded by this ability because I am a girl.

A few of my peers have shared their remorse for me because I have to drive a manual car. Several people have even apologized. It is not uncommon to hear “I’m sorry” or “that’s terrible.”

Despite most opinions, I greatly enjoy driving a stick-shift. It is a very beneficial skill to possess because I, unlike others, have the ability to drive any car with ease. If I am ever abroad and in the position of needing to rent a car, I will be able to do so without panic. Over 80% of the cars sold in Europe possess manual transition.

Driving a stick-shift has also taught me useful skills. For instance, I feel as though I am more aware of the environment around me. I anticipate light changes, animals running across the street, people crossing the road and upcoming turns more carefully so that I have enough time to switch gears. 

It has also taught me how to have patience with myself. When I learned to drive, I would tend to let my foot off the clutch quickly instead of easing off, causing the car to stall. Then I learned how to take things slowly.

My dad would continuously quote Phil Dunphy from Modern Family by saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

Per usual, he was right. 

Another benefit is that I am not able to use my phone while driving. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed due to motor vehicle accidents involving cell phones. Since stick-shift cars require a hand ready for shifting, the idea of picking up a cell phone doesn’t cross my mind.

In fact, this is one of the reasons my dad was eager to have my sisters and I drive a car with a manual transmission. 

Besides my two sisters, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who can drive a stick-shift. Personally, I think it is really cool.

When I took my road test, I drove my Jeep. My instructor asked me tentatively, “You’re driving manual?” when I began the test. I think he expected me to fail, but with great pride, I responded with, “Yes I am.”