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We Blocked the Highway

March 23, 2013

Back when drive-in theatres were popular, three of us went to a drive-in riding in an old Chevy.  This car had a three-speed manual transmission with the shift lever on the steering column.  I don’t remember the movie, but I do remember what happened afterwards.  At then end of the movie, everybody tries to leave at once.  Cars from all of the rows merge into one line that finally turns onto the highway.  We left a bit early to avoid this traffic jam.  We weren’t the first, but we were close to the head of the line.  As we turned onto the highway, our driver accelerated in first gear, and then attempted to shift into second to accelerate again.  He missed!  He shifted half way betwen reverse and second.  The transmission locked.  The old Chevy screeched to a stop on the highway.  The engine stalled.  The gearshift was stuck.  Whenever our driver started the engine and tried to move the car, the engine stalled again.  We were stopped on the highway and could not move.

The whole audience from the drive-in theatre was lined up behind us.  Instead of avoiding a traffic jam, we were the cause of one.  Drivers were honking at us.  Cars were going around us when they could.  Finally somebody stopped behind us and offered to help.  When they tried to push us, their car stalled.  They tried again with more power, and stalled again.  Next they backed up and bumped our car.  That did it!  Our car lurched forward with a loud snap.  Our driver started off in first.  That worked fine.  He shifted to second.  Click-click-click!  We must have broken a tooth on second gear.  He shifted into third.  It was quiet again.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful, except that our driver learned to shift from first directly into third, skipping second gear entirely.  He drove around like that for a while too, but eventually replaced the transmission with one from a junk yard.  The old Chevy was quiet again, this time in all three gears.

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