How to Drive Stick

Manual transmission vehicles are more efficient, cheaper to produce, and put the driver in full control, and best of all are way more fun to drive. Yet, a large number of men now have know idea how. I’m going to teach you how to in theory, but you’re going to need to practice too. 

Disclaimer: I’m operating on the assumption that you’ll be driving a typical North American car. You may find slight differences in other countries. 

Getting In

When you first get into a manual transmission vehicle you’ll notice two major differences; the shifter and the pedals. A stick shift has a third pedal to the left of the other two which controls the clutch. The clutch is a mechanism positioned between the engine and transmission that allows the energy flow through the powertrain, and functionally puts the car in neutral. The shifter is typically a metal stick protruding from the floor or centre console with a ball on the end. The shift pattern, the pattern of movement needed to select gears, is usually printed or engraved on the top of the shifter. 

Typical 5-speed shift pattern.


To start the car, you’ll need to depress the clutch pedal before you turn the key. That’s a safety feature so the car won’t accidentally lurch forward. It’s a good idea to check that the car’s in neutral, especially if you’re not the only driver. If it moves to both sides easily, it’s in neutral. You’ll also want to check the tachometer, which shows engine speed, if you’ve never drive that specific car before. Whatever it reads now is the lowest you ever want it to until you’re parked again, probably 500 to 1000 rpm.

Tachometer

Getting Moving

Before you start driving you’ll probably need to release the parking brake. Most auto drivers know how to work a parking brake but don’t use, so tend to forget about them. Getting moving from a dead stop requires careful pedal control and excellent situational awareness. Start by depressing the clutch and putting the shifter into first, then comes the hard part. You’ll need to gradually release the clutch and gently press the gas  at the same time. If you can’t keep the engine speed at or above an idle, release the gas and depress the clutch then try again. When you feel the clutch “catch,” release the clutch entirely. Until the clutch catches it’ll feel a little like you’re trying to drive through molasses.

Shifting

You can’t keep your car in first forever at several points you’ll need to shift. Again, pedal control is key. You’ll need to move though the following steps as quickly as you can:

  1. Release the gas
  2. Depress the clutch 
  3. Move the shifter into the desired gear
  4. Release the clutch 
  5. Hit the gas

How hard you hit the gas depends on the situation. If you’re shifting into a higher gear you probably want to hit the gas fairly hard, but if you’re shifting down you’ll need a lighter touch. There’s also a technique called “engine braking” but that should wait until you have some more practice. 

Unfortunately, I can’t give you much help with when to shift, every car is different. A lower gear will give better acceleration and torque, but a higher gear will give better fuel economy and speed.

Stopping & Parking

The brakes do the same job regardless of what kind of transmission you have but, once you reach the point of stopping, stick shifts are a little different. You need to either depress the clutch or shift into neutral before you try to stop, or your engine will stall. If you depress the clutch by the time you get down to about 10 km/h, you should be fine. Personally, I usually shift into neutral anytime I’m slowing to stop or expect to need a lower gear when I hit the gas again. 

The only thing you need to remember when parking a stick is that there’s no park gear. You’ll need to leave it in gear, fully engage the parking brake, or both.

A Couple Final Points

There are some things you’ll need to know that aren’t really instructions. First, you will stall, there’s no way around it. Just restart the engine and keep trying. Second, if it doesn’t want to go into gear, just release the clutch and put it back in, that’s called “double clutching” and it should help. 

Finally, if you hear a grinding or squealing when you try to shift, for the love of all that’s good and holy, stop trying. You’re doing irreparable damage to the transmission, which can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Just leave the shifter in neutral, double clutch, and try again.

Dressing Your Kids to Enjoy Their Childhood and Become Mature Adults

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Everyone has opinions on how children should be dressed. Some are ridiculous and some are reasonable so it can be hard to sort them out. I’m going to be throwing my hat into that ring and trying to guide you into dressing your children to ease them into the adult world without keeping them from playing.

Complement the Adults

You and your wife likely put a lot of thought into how you dress, but how do your kids fit into that? If they’re dressed better than you it’ll look like you’re trying to show them off, if they’re dressed worse it looks like they don’t really matter to you, and if they’re dressed as well as you but totally different it looks like their very presence was an afterthought. You’ll want to make sure you have at least one outfit to go with every outfit in your child’s wardrobe. You don’t have to coordinate like they’re an accessory, so long as you’re both dressed to the same standard. 

For girls that’s pretty easy, a cute dress goes from the playground to church, but boys are harder. If your son’s wearing a more juvenile version of what you would wear, then you’re probably good. 

Span Formality

Children’s clothes seem to rarely go beyond the realm of the casual, but they should. Don’t buy your kids any formalwear they won’t use soon, but they do need at least one church-ready outfit. By “church-ready” I don’t mean your church, but rather any church. Every girl needs at least one nice dress, and every boy needs at least one outfit with a tie. Kids clothes are flexible in terms of formality, so whatever they’d wear to a more formal church would probably work right through black-tie optional and maybe even beyond.

Keep It Modest

Children are not sexual beings, so they’re likely to internalise everything about their childhood as being non-sexual, so long as it doesn’t cross the line into molestation. If you dress your young daughter in skimpy outfits than she’ll likely dress even skimpier as an adult. Essentially, hold children to the same standards you would adults. 

Move Towards Adult Standards

The long term goal is obviously that your children dress appropriately as adults. To that end, every fashion decision you make for them needs to be a step in that direction. The only case in which it’s acceptable to dress a child significantly different than an adult is if that difference would later be abandoned entirely. If how you dress and how you dress and how you dress your child are sending them mixed messages, they’ll end up taking the path of least resistance and make sartorially apathetic choices as an adult. You will have created the type of person that wears pyjamas in public and t-shirts in church. 

Put Practicality First

This is where the enjoyment of childhood really comes in to view. Children will always want to play and you don’t want to quash that enthusiasm. So, be sure everything they wear allows for that. Don’t dress them in anything that appreciably restricts their movements, unless that’s the only way they can be dressed appropriately. Also, choose your daughters’ skirt length with that in mind. You don’t want it dragging on the ground and getting caught on things, but you don’t want her constantly flashing her playmates either. 

Visiting a Lutheran Church

Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church

A while back I wrote about how to be an outsider in church, but that was pretty generic. Today, I bring you some advice on the etiquette when visiting a Lutheran church, or at least a fairly traditional one.

What is Lutheran?

The definition of a Lutheran is one who follows the teachings of Martin Luther, not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr. although he had some pretty good ideas too. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic clergyman who objected to a number of the church’s doctrines. While Lutherans are the original Protestants, our service are more like Catholic services than those of many other Protestants. 

The Pastor

Lutheran services are typically led by the pastor. Some Lutheran churches have female pastors but most are still men, especially in more traditional churches. Lutheran pastors typically dress similarly to Catholic priests, but are often husbands and fathers as well. The pastor is the most elaborately dressed of those in conspicuous attire. The other common people to dress conspicuously are vicars, who are student pastors, and acolytes, teenagers and young adults that help with the service. 

Liturgy

The most traditional form of Lutheran service is the liturgy, a structured and prewritten service. The exact form of the liturgy varies between synods, churches, and even weeks. The liturgy may be projected on a screen, printed in the bulletin, or in the hymnal. If it’s in the hymnal then the pastor will most like direct you to the correct page. There’s quite a bit of call and response in a typical liturgy but if you pay attention you should have no difficulty figuring out what you should be saying. Usually the liturgy begins with the pastor entering the sanctuary and ends with him leaving. 

Music

Music is a central component of many Lutheran services. Portions of the liturgy are often sung or chanted but there’s more music than that, most notably during communion and immediately before the sermon. The hymn before the sermon is known as the sermon hymn or the hymn of the day and is thematically related to the sermon. Lutherans view music as an important teaching tool so the choices of songs is usually quite significant. Traditional hymns are quite common in Lutheran churches, but more contemporary songs are also far from unheard of. 

Communion

Communion is a central element in most Lutheran services. If any of this advice is useful, then you shouldn’t be taking communion. 

Lutheran communion typically involves going up to the front of the church where they kneel at a railing, and eat a wafer and drink a sip of wine. While they’re waiting, everyone else sings. Ushers move down the aisles and direct people to go up. The people will usually wait at the front of the pews until directed to go up to the rail by another usher. They stand at the rail until the pastor holds out his hands and they kneel. After taking communion the pastor will dismiss them and they return to their seats.

Most people stay in their seats when not taking communion but some go up to the rail and cross their arms in front of them. If you go up to the rail, the pastor pray a blessing for you instead. Lutheran children don’t take communion, so all young children that go up for communion receive a blessing. 

Where to Sit

It’s a common joke that to be a good Lutheran one must always sit at the back. It’s a joke but it does have a grain of truth so sitting at the front is likely to draw attention to you as an outsider. There are two unspoken rules but they hardly even need to be mentioned; sit in the congregation and don’t sit anywhere that isn’t facing the altar, these are reserved for people with formal roles in the service.

Special Events

There are two main events that happen during Lutheran services and warrant inviting others to; baptisms and confirmations. Lutheran baptisms mark a person initially joining the church, so it’s usually infants that are baptized, but adults and older children are also baptized on occasion and all are equally celebrated. Confirmation is essentially the graduation into full membership in the church, and typically follows a period of instruction.  It’s usually teenagers that get confirmed, but adults do on occasion as well, as was my case. 

Act Like a Visitor

The most important thing to remember when visiting a Lutheran church is the same as when you visit anywhere; act like a visitor. Most Lutheran churches are very welcoming so long as you show the appropriate respect. You’ve entered their space so it isn’t the place to oppose their beliefs or question their motivations. Be respectful and open minded, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Be a Man, Be a Stoic

Stoicism was a popular philosophy in the Victorian era. It was even the basis for the prevailing honour codes of the time. In the simplest terms, stoicism is soldiering on and maintaining a calm demeanour as much as possible, the quintessential British “stiff upper lip.” Doesn’t that sound manly, facing challenges head on and being ruled by logic rather than emotion? In case that wasn’t enough I’m going to be making some more arguments for embracing stoicism. 

Emotion Feeds Emotion

When one person expresses emotion others react to it. If you yell in anger, others get angry. If you cry, other become sad. Before long everyone becomes extremely emotional. When emotion takes over, a whole plethora of problems appears. 

Emotion Impairs Logic

We’ve all made bad decisions because we were upset. It’s how the human mind works. The more emotional we are, the more important emotions seem to be. Not only that, emotion clouds the mind so nothing shines through and you can only think about whatever inspired the emotion. 

Emotion Blocks Communication

Have you ever been calmly discussing something, until someone starts yelling and suddenly it’s a fight? I’m guessing you have. When emotions boil over, advice becomes demands, observations become insults, and communication breaks down. All you can do anymore is hurt feelings. 

Good Leaders Stay Calm

What’s the most terrifying thing that can happen on a plane? Weird noises from the engines? Turbulence? Smoke in the cabin? No. It’s panicking flight attendants. Why is that so terrifying? The flight attendants only panic when there’s genuine danger. Calm flight attendants means there’s no real danger. Followers always look to their leaders for guidance, stay calm will allow a leader to make wise decisions and make it easier for the followers to stay calm as well.  Virtually all men will eventually become leaders, like when they become husbands and fathers.

Stoicism Can Make Unpleasant Situations Palatable

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation you can’t change, like a hot summer day. If you let your emotions get the better of you, you’ll just make yourself and everyone around you miserable. A mildly unpleasant situation just becomes progressively worse and you’re blind to the good points. If you soldier on it can even become a point of pride that you were able to keep your composure and face the hardship with dignity. I often get headaches on sunny days, but I never hide in a corner and complain, instead I soldier on. 

A Man’s Wedding 

These days people tend to think of weddings as being for the bride. That’s something that’s always bothered me. If anything, getting down the aisle is more impressive for men, seeing as how good women are in such short supply and we’re expected to be the ones who make the moves. It’s not right that we become little more than an accessory on the day that’s supposed to mark one of the most important events of our lives. I’m going to offer you some tips to help make your wedding about you too, and be a manly groom while you’re at it. 

Avoid the Word “Bridal”

I’m not saying never say “bridal” but be very careful about it. He word “bridal” means of or pertaining to a bride. It is not a synonym for “wedding.” Every time someone says “bridal” for things that aren’t exclusively about the bride, it sends the message that the groom is irrelevant. If you’re considering hiring someone who’s liberal with the word, pass them over.

It’s Your Day Too

No matter what point in the process your at, never allow your opinion to be ignored. Of course, I’m not saying your bride’s opinion should be ignored either, but you should get your say. There are some decisions that are yours, some are your brides, and some are shared, but both of your opinions should be considered in all of them.

Skip the Groom’s Cake

Some men try to get themselves back into their weddings with things like groom cakes, but that’s not likely to work. It seems like the bride made a gesture by allowing you to express yourself in some little way. It’s then obvious that everything else is just about the bride. There is a much better way to keep yourself in the wedding, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is.

Keep the Men Out of the Bridal Shower

Notice I said Bridal shower. This is one part of the wedding that should be entirely about the bride. Some people think “couple’s showers” should be a thing. They’re wrong. I don’t know if they think it’s the solution to the unfairness of brides getting two prewedding parties or a good way to get men to be more involved in their weddings. Really it’s just another example of forcing men to become more feminine.

Veto the Bachelorette Party

The bachelorette party is the epitome of women trying to be men. Sometime after boorish bachelor parties became the norm, the bachelorette party became common. Even worse, it’s become common for women to want bachelorette parties yet veto bachelor parties. If you stay out of the bridal shower it’ll give her the chance to have a classy party with just her friends.

Keep the Bachelor Party Classy

When most people think of bachelor parties, the first thing that comes to mind is a night filled with debauchery, but there’s a better option. A bachelor party that’s built around enjoying the company of your friends will inevitably be more manly and your bride will have nothing to object to. Your bachelor party should be about celebrating your impending nuptials, not having “one last night of freedom” especially since you’re, if anything, more free after you’re married. 

Put Tradition Before Fashion

There’s nothing wrong with having trendy touches in your wedding, but it is more feminine. Men tend to be more concerned about legacy and tradition than women are, so being traditional tends to be seen as more manly. The best thing, is that wedding traditions are still quite feminine so insisting on a more traditional wedding isn’t going to push your bride on to the sidelines.

Be Visible

It’s impossible to make an event about you if nobody realises you’re around. Your bride is going to be extremely visible in her beautiful white dress, so you need to be front and centre too. Be sure to dress differently than the guests, so you don’t too easily blend in. That’s part of why I think casual weddings are a terrible idea, you can’t stand out if you’re dressing below where many men would be comfortable. Mingle, dance, do whatever it takes for people to see you as the centre of the day, alongside your bride.

Have Non-Negotiables

As promised, here’s the best way to keep yourself in the wedding, non-negotiables. You need to pick some points on which you’re completely unwilling to compromise. Be sure to choose things that are extremely important to you, like family traditions. Don’t choose a tacky theme and make it a non-negotiable. Your bride deserves her non-negotiables as well, and you need to respect that. If they become an issue, then that may be a bad sign for your marriage.

I have one non-negotiable for any event to be about me. I expect the maximum appropriate level of formality for the type of event

The Update to Phone Etiquette

Manual phone switchboardEditor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Telephones have been around, in some form or another for over a century and there have been several notable advancements in the technology during that time. Most have those advances forced a change in the etiquette, except the last time it needed to. When cell phones entered common use the old etiquette could still be followed but it no longer fits. 

The Evolution of Phones

To understand the etiquette of phones, one must understand how the technology and the etiquette have evolved since Alexander Graham Bell said “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.” In 1876. The core features of phone technology haven’t appreciably changed since then but the routing has changed enormously. 

The Party Line

The first phone system in many communities was a party line. Party lines consist of two connections. The first rings the bells on all the phones in the community when a handle is turned on any of them. A second connection carries the voice signal to all the phones on the network at once, if someone picks up the receiver. Party lines were inexpensive, lacking the need for complicated routing equipment or paid staff, and allowed many people to participate in the same conversation but they provided no possibility for privacy and inherently had a limited capacity, to the point that they could only serve a small community. 

Typically people were expected to only pick up the phone if they intended to participate in the conversation, although many people eavesdropped anyway. It was also expected that conversations be kept brief, so others could also use the line. It’s also when the expectation started that an incoming call never be ignored. 

Operators

The first major improvement technology was the switchboard. One to one calls became the norm, with human beings (usually women) routing the call. Besides the obvious benefit to privacy, switchboards allowed for long distance calls and the operators could render assistance, like retrying busy lines and helping to track down individuals. 

Mostly the etiquette didn’t change, but now people were expected to be considerate of the operators. Better yet, people back then were actually respectful. The long time it sometimes took to connect calls even forced people to be patient. 

Automated Exchanges

I grouped all of these together because they all had the same effect on etiquette. The role of the operator was eliminated along with all its benefits. Calls now connected quickly, even between continents. It also brought about the end of accountability because anonymity became possible. For that reason, hanging up on a call in progress became acceptable. 

Call Screening

With the advent of caller id and the answering machine, it became possible to identify callers before answering again. This was also the first time the etiquette didn’t fully update. It was still seen as extreme to not answer. 

Mobile Phones

When mobile phones, most notably cell phones, came on the scene people were always near a phone for the first time, but the etiquette didn’t update at all. 

The New Etiquette

With our society’s failure to update phone etiquette, we’ve ended up with some pretty aggravating and sometimes dangerous situations. 

Answering is Optional

It’s entirely acceptable to not answer the phone for any reason. The assumption must be that when someone doesn’t answer it’s because it would be inappropriate or unwise.

The Physically Present Take Priority

It’s never acceptable to ignore the people around you to answer the phone. Only answer the phone in social settings when you believe it will be a genuine emergency or some other “DEFCON 1” type situation. 

Move Away to Talk

Go as far away from others as you reasonably can to talk on the phone. Nobody else wants to listen to your conversation so don’t force them too. 

Use Speakerphone Sparingly

It’s only appropriate to use speakerphone when nothing else is practical. Using speakerphone as an alternative to holding the phone or to allow many people to participate are the appropriate options. That said, the other side has the right to know who can hear them. 

Don’t Make Calls That You Shouldn’t Expect To Be Answered

I’ve explored when to make phone calls before, so I won’t again. If you’re making a phone call when you shouldn’t then you can’t expect it to be answered. Also, if the other party’s caller id doesn’t accurately identify you or the party you represent you are lying to them and calling them becomes malicious.

Don’t Assume Anyone is Perpetually Available

A trend has appeared that people think they have the right to a prompt response to a phone call placed to a business at any time, day or night. They don’t. Only call business lines during regular business hours and expect specific people to be entirely unreachable while on holiday, unless you’ve been personally told otherwise. 


That’s my idea of how phone etiquette needs to be updated. If you have any ideas of your own, drop them in the comments.

Summer: Dressing for the Heat

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Summer is here, and it’s brought the heat with it. If you’re not dressed for it you end up baking like your grandma’s rhubarb pie. I’m going to help you dress comfortably in warm weather without looking like a cad.

Keep Your Shirt On

There’s a trend these days of guys taking their shirts off any time it gets warm. Often these guys are pretty out of shape too. I say, don’t. Unless you’re at the beach or pool or maybe playing a pickup basketball game, keep your shirt on. Nobody wants to see that anyway. You’re a man, your intellect and character make you far more attractive than your body ever could.

Choosing Your Fabrics

Your choice of fabric can greatly influence your comfort level in any weather conditions. When choosing fabrics for warm weather, you’ll want to wear something light and breathable. Cotton is a good choice, as a certain synthetics. You want to be careful with the synthetics though, they can look excessively casual. Lighter colours are a wise choice as well, as darker colours will heat up more in the sun. 

Wear a Hat

In the heat, hats go from a wise fashion choice to a necessity. The right hat will protect your head from the harsh sun. A baseball cap would do the job, but there’s not much that’s less classy than a ball cap as an everyday hat. A gentlemanly white Panama hat is probably your best bet. It’s summery looking but still classy, and it goes with a wide variety of casual and informal outfits. On top of that, you’ll look a bit like Al Capone. 

Shorts

Shorts are far more comfortable in the heat than pants but can easily be worn wrong. It’s sad that I have to say this but, shorts are exclusively casual. In fact, you should probably limit them to your street clothes. A man’s shorts should be approximately knee length with a relaxed but not baggy fit. You have a little bit of leeway on the baggy side but otherwise they’ll almost instantly look ill-fitting. You also need to remember that simpler garments are more formal, so only pair cargo shorts with t-shirts. Personally, I would always go straight to pants after cargo shorts. Finally, never tuck your shirt into your shorts. 

Sandals

Sandals are an excellent choice to keep your feet cool in the heat, but there are rules here too. Most importantly, there are two garments that must never be worn with sandals; socks and pants, you’ll just end up looking like an old man, even if you’re thirteen. Leather flip-flops or hiking sandals are a touch more formal so they’re a good choice with a polo or button-down shirt. Anything else is best kept in the realm of t-shirts. 

Be Prepared to Layer

Even the hottest days can get pretty cool in the evenings, so you’ll need to be ready for that too. If you expect to be out into the evening, be sure to bring along a sweater or coat that goes with your outfit. Fit is less of an issue since you’ll be most comfortable wearing only one layer anyway. If you’re going out on a date, a blanket is your best choice so you can cuddle up with that lovely lady when it gets cool. 

Suck It Up

Sometimes you may have no choice but to tap into your inner stoic, and suck it up. Men’s fashion gets inherently warm once you get up to the more formal end. It can even be enough to make you jealous of the fairer sex and their light airy dresses. Just carry a handkerchief and try to stay indoors.