Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I subscribe to Heroic Stories ( These true stories of people reaching out to help one another with no regard to their own benefit, are really little doses of antidote to the horrors and outrages that seem to overwhelm us these days. The most recent one was from a man who as a small child was afraid of the water, and how he overcame his fear to save another little boy, and then realized he had to learn to swim. Both kids had their lives given back to them that day.

It got me thinking about three skills that I believe are essential life skills: learning to drive a stick shift automobile, swimming, and reading.

Well, just learning to drive is essential, in my opinion. Even if you never own a car, you never know when you'll need to be able to get around in one. And for that reason I also emphasize driving a stick shift. Anybody who can drive, can drive an automatic shift car. But you might find yourself in a life or death situation and the only vehicle available is a stick shift. Think how awful that would be, with the vehicle right there but useless to you because you couldn't get the damned thing to go!

It's my impression that women are most often dismissive of stick shifts, but as more and more women are working in jobs where that's what's likely to be around - I'm thinking of engineers and building contractors on job sites, but there are plenty of others, I'm sure - it's just crazy for a woman not to know how to drive a stick shift vehicle. It may not be easy to learn (my first attempts in Driver's Ed were a failure, but my first husband had a stick shift Rambler and he taught me), but really, if you're determined, you can get it. Once you figure out that catch-point of the clutch, every stick shift vehicle, whether "on the floor" or "on the column" (do they make those any more? Doesn't matter - the old ones are still around) will be your servant when you need it.

And swimming! It's insane not to teach your kids to swim! Or if you've reached adulthood without it, not to go learn how. There cannot be many places in the USA where there's not someone, and somewhere, to go to learn this vital skill. Even if you never intend to go to the beach, or swim recreationally, you never EVER know when you'll need this ability. Imagine how horrible to have to watch someone drown in a flood or a motel swimming pool because you can't get to them. Not to mention drowning, yourself. Most swimming teachers these days know now to teach someone who's afraid of the water, and no mature adult is going to have anything but respect for a person who wants to learn.

So if you can't swim today, and/or can't drive a manual transmission car - do what it takes to learn. You can do it! And the life you save might someday be your own, or someone you love.

Reading is too big a subject - I'll get to that another day. Besides, if you're reading this, it doesn't apply to you!

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