Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just A Little Bit Faster And I'll Pop The Clutch Dept

You know, I used to do this all the time with my little Honda whenever, as was my habit, I forgot and left the lights on and ran the battery down. For the benefit of townies, one of the advantages of having a stick shift (especially if first is geared pretty low and the car is light enough for you to push single-handedly, or if you live in mountains and form the habit of always parking on a slope) is that all you have to do to start the thing is put it into neutral, open the front door so that you can push the car with one hand and steer with the other, get the car rolling five or ten miles an hour, hop in, shove it into first, and pop the clutch. The compression in the engine causes it to start firing and there you go, now your engine's running.

Really and truly, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Princeton, I spent the whole summer starting my little Honda Civic by pushing it because I didn't feel I could afford to buy a whole brand new -- and unnecessary -- battery. And the Troika thought it was really funny when, a couple of weeks ago, I backed into Duane's driveway because the battery on the Civic hadn't had lots of time to charge since the last time I'd left the lights on, and I wasn't sure the battery would be strong enough yet to fire the old girl up. "Papa, why are you backing into Miz Desiree's driveway?" "'Cause it might be hard to start the car." [To each other, with rolling of eyes, the Russian teenaged girl equivalent of...] "Well, you ask a silly question..."

And sure enough, when we came back out and I turned the key to start the car, the starter ground out a couple of cycles and then died, and the girls started to groan -- at which point I simply pushed in the clutch, and we rolled silently down the driveway and into the street, and I popped the clutch and she coughed cheerfully into life. And I looked in the rearview mirror at three rather wide-eyed girls and winked at 'em, and they started laughing, and that was that.

But all this is mostly to say: I knew you could do that with a car. But in China, apparently, they've figured out that it works with planes too:

It's actually a pretty funny story -- those are actually the passengers out there pushing the plane. I encourage you to go read it.

HT: Mr. Barry, who observes, "The difference between first class and coach? It's the service."


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