A sign of the times, part 2

This story’s being sent about as an example of stupid criminals, à la News of the Weird, but I just view it as a sign of the times:

Bellacino’s Pizzeria closes at 9 p.m. That’s when one of the employees left work out a back door, where his car was parked. He was approached by two teens armed with a gun, who demanded his wallet and his car keys.

The employee wisely gave both up.

The suspect jumped into the victim’s car, but he couldn’t get it started, because it didn’t have an automatic transmission. It was a standard shift with a clutch pedal.

The victim ran back into the pizzeria and called police. After a few minutes, other employees opened the back door expecting the criminals to be gone.

“And I look out, and the guy’s still in his car, trying to start the car, but all he has is the radio on, ’cause you have to keep the clutch down to start the engine,” said pizzeria employee J.J. Williamson.

Frustration turned to resignation, and the suspects left the scene in a more conventional way — they ran. But not fast enough before Cobb police arrested Joshua Johnson, 18, and a juvenile.

This story is amusing, and it’s fortunate that no one got hurt. While it’s tempting to laugh at the carjackers for their stupidity, it’s actually not all that surprising what happened. After all, I doubt too many carjackers, would take the time to look carefully and see if a car that they’re about to carjack has a clutch and manual shift, and professional car thiefs generally prefer to steal cars when their owners aren’t in them. It used to be that almost everyone knew how to drive a stick shift, but now relatively few do, particularly young people. Carmakers don’t even make that many models where a manual shift is an option; it’s mostly specialty high performance cars. It seems that only truck drivers are able to work a clutch anymore. Even back in the late 1970’s, the driver’s education class that I took to learn how to drive didn’t teach us how to use a manual shift. In one way, it’s kind of sad, because manual shift cars, properly driven, tend to get better gas mileage than cars with automatic transmissions.

I didn’t learn to drive a stick until I was in my 20’s. I actually rather liked my old stick shift car, a Ford Probe that I owned for 10 years (although I admit that driving it around Chicago could get to be a pain sometimes). I wouldn’t mind owning a manual shift car again someday, but it’s unlikely to happen.