A Look at One of the Last

  • May 24, 2024

There was a time when it was as nothing to buy a can of Freon (R12) at any auto parts store and for less than $5 per can. It is now illegal to buy Freon – unless you are “certified” by the government, which means you’ve paid a bunch of fees to the government to be allowed the privilege of buying Freon – which costs closer to $100 for a can-equivalent in our time.

I cite this example to make a point. Things we thought would be around forever tend to not be – when government has anything to say about it.

Here is another thing: The second-to-last new Subaru that’s still available with an engine that’s connected to a manual transmission that still has a manual (driver-controlled) emergency brake. These are three things almost all cars – excepting large and typically luxury-brand sedans – used to routinely come standard with.

It has become difficult to find a car, at all – as almost no one makes them anymore except for a few of the high-end luxury brands (and none of those are available with a manual transmission or a pull-up emergency brake).

It is almost impossible to find anything with a manual transmission anymore. And the manual emergency brake is as rare a thing as an ashtray. One day, people from the time when neither was rare will have stories to tell to those born after the time such things became unavailable.

Words will have to substitute for experience and that is generally a poor substitute because it is much harder to feel what you’ve never experienced. Like the feel of the clutch engaging as your left foot releases it and the way your right hand is connected to the engine via the transmission, which you can feel in the palm of your hand. With an automatic you feel nothing. With an EV you feel even less because there isn’t even an automatic. There is only the feel of  forward movement; the same feeling one gets by standing on one of those horizontal escalators they have at big city airports, to move people quickly from A to B.

But these do not move you.

The manual transmission is both uncontrollable and controlled – by you as opposed to programming over which you have no control. There is a feeling of empowerment in that; one that is absent when the manual is.

It is the same uncontrolled and controlled (by you rather than electronics, programmed by some remote someone-else who doesn’t care how you feel about it and let’s not forget there’s nothing you can do about it) with regard to the manual emergency brake.

It is not the same as a parking brake – and the distinction is important.

A parking brake is used to keep the car from moving when you want it to remain stationary. An emergency brake can be used to move the car the way you want it to move, as by using it to turn right (or around) much more quickly and artfully than turning it around by signaling, slowing and gradually turning. The nanny-ninnys, of course, scowl with derision at such things. They live, it seems, to take as much control away from you as is possible – and always in the name of “safety.”

There is plenty of that in the grave – where no harm can come to the person within. But there is no longer any life therein, either. And that’s why it’s important to live while we’re not yet in the grave – and to fight those who would turn life into a kind of living death, devoid of experience, in the name of “keeping us safe.”

. . .

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