Fresh off the red-eye from Atlanta, Georgia, to Santiago, Chile, my wife, Leslie, and I bounded off the plane, excited to start our new lives as missionaries in Chile. After we made our way through customs, Jason and Lori Holt met us, and we headed over to get the car rental. I had forgotten to book a rental until the previous day and had had a little bit of trouble, but finally managed to find a car. I gave the man at the desk our confirmation number. And that’s when the problems began. “Ah,” he said. “You’ve reserved a car in Santiago, Spain.” The color drained out of my face. “Oh,” I muttered. “Okay.” How in the world could you do that, Stephen?
“It’s fine,” Jason said calmly. “We’ll just ask around and see who has something available.” I decided then that I should probably confess. “I don’t know how to drive a stick,” I admitted. Unlike back in the halcyon days of America, where everybody knew how to drive a stick shift, I’d never really needed to use one, nor had I ever really had the opportunity to learn. Now I found myself without a rental car in a country where most people drive manuals, even though automatics are available. I had somewhat hoped that I’d get through my whole life without ever needing to know how to drive a stick.
We searched online and found a car, though I couldn’t tell when we reserved it whether it’d be an automatic or manual. My worst fears were confirmed when the guy pulled up to the airport doors with a manual transmission car. “Wait,” Jason said. “He can’t drive a manual.” The guy shrugged. “That’s all we have.”
At that moment, I knew I had no choice. I figured the day would come when I’d have to learn how to drive a stick anyway. While I’d much rather preferred not to do it in a packed city of 7 million people, with no side roads to pull off on, and having had almost no sleep the night before, I figured I’d get it over with. “I can learn today,” I declared. The guy looked at Jason and shrugged. “Yes, he can learn today,” he slowly agreed.
And that’s how I found myself stalling and restarting on the highway as I attempted to drive a stick shift within hours of landing on the mission field of Chile. Tune in next week to find out about the adventures that ensued!