It must have been about 25 years ago. I had just bought my first ever motor car. It was a Mazda 323 and I was pleased as punch with it. But a car is only a car. So when my good friend David said “give me your car, to go for a ride” I was happy to hand him the keys, even though I didn’t know how long he’d be gone. Despite being Canadian, he was comfortable with manual transmission, and off he went.
I think his date went pretty well, and when he returned the machine he commented favourably on the ride.
“That fifth gear is quite something, isn't it?” I asked with paternal pride and a hint of car talk about me.
“Yeah.” Pause. “It has a fifth gear.”
Such things were a bit new and quite the thing back then.
“Oh,” he said. “I didn’t find it. I feel a bit of a chump.”
On Saturday I picked up a hire car at Heathrow to drive down to the West Country. Nice little Fiat Bravo, very comfortable, very nippy. Three hours later I had reached my destination. Needed to go into reverse to park. Moved the stick to where I thought reverse was. Nope, that wasn’t it. Glanced down at the gear lever knob.
“Sixth? There’s a sixth gear?”
I felt a bit of a chump.