Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Things that Crack Me Up in Brazil (I): Automatic Transmissions

This is the first in a series of erratic posts on daily things I absolutely get a kick out of in Brazil, and I couldn't start with a better entry.

Like most of the rest of the world, automatic transmission cars are incredibly hard to come by. Standard is so common that almost nobody knows anything about automatic (take, for example, a car commercial advertising one of the first major automatic-transmission cars here, which plays on the joke about people learning stick by showing drivers in said car lurching as if it wer stick, and uncertain how to put it in reverse or get it out of park).

This unfamiliarity with automatics can lead to hilarious daily conversations, like the one I heard two weeks ago. A few men were sitting around, discussing these new cars in Brazil, and talking about what they had heard about automatics. One solemnly declared that one of his friends who would "know about such things" had said that you had to accelerate with your right foot and brake with your left. He and his friends were puzzling over how you were supposed to drive while using the left foot to brake.

I just couldn't let this mystery remain a secret, so I politely informed them that I've driven automatic my whole life, and that's the beauty of the car - you don't use your left foot at all, and especially not for braking. I told them that some standard-transmission owners occasionally try to hit the clutch-that-isn't-there in an automatic with their left foot, but that in no means do you brake with said foot. This seemed to put their minds at ease, but left me wondering what other myths of automatics might be making their way around here...