Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eastbound and Down

The new electronic automatic transmission.

Every year for the past eight years or so, I've rented a 26' box truck from Penske to haul all the gear Jay's Shave Ice needs to stage our booth at Artscape, Baltimore's annual festival of the arts. For me, it's a fun time because I get to drive a big truck around town and it's my time to reminisce the "old days" when I used to drive tour buses for Roberts Hawaii (yes, the big Greyhound type of buses).

I've driven all kinds of trucks with all kinds of transmissions from double-clutch manual buses to automatic trucks loaded down with gear. Every two years or so, Penske replaces their trucks and this year was no different. But this time, my truck came with a new electronic transmission.

As far as transmissions go, it works good enough, but I hate it. The lag between shifts is both unnerving and irritating. You're just waiting for it to shift to the next gear. I know for many of you with normal cars this is hard to fathom but imagine driving in first gear then shifting to neutral for two seconds and then shifting to second. Add in the fact that you need it to shift NOW and that should give you a basic idea of what it's like.

Not to mention the trucks' propensity to roll backwards at stop lights.

Taking iPhone Pictures While Driving: High peril on the open roadway.

And that doesn't begin to cover reverse. Shift the sucker into reverse and it's like a bronco, trying to buck you off. Shudder, shudder, shudder - and the thing barely starts to move. Then suddenly, it wants to jump backwards in fits. My Lord, this is intolerable!

Oh well, I guess I can live with the shift lag and the shaky reverse. It's only for a couple of days anyway.

Meanwhile, I'll be playing The King Of The Road...