Monday, June 27, 2011

Driving Lessons!

The second weekend in town, it was time to get out on the road!

Best to start small, though. David drove us out to his office,and I was able to test out driving on the right side of the car. Granted, we barely left the parking lot, but it didn't seem that strange! I basically just worked on turning and steering, and a little bit on parking. I felt like I just wasn't getting the parking thing, and I thought that if there had been other cars in the parking lot that I would have hit them. So in order to test that, I had David get out of the car and stand in a spot and pretend to be a parked car. Come on, unlike a parked car, he could have gotten out of the way if I was about to plow into him!!! ;o)

We were working on this when a security guard came up to Dave and asked what he was doing. When he told him we were just practicing driving, the guard said we couldn't be here because it was private property. Dave said, "I know...I work here." The guard totally changed tune and wished us well and to have a pleasant day. Funny. He was trying to be all tough at first, but I bet that was the most excitement that guy has seen in months on the job!!

We also practiced the two small roundabouts by the office. THEY ARE SO STRANGE!!! I get the logic behind it; they keep traffic moving rather than having people stopped up at lights or stop signs. But what about the roundabouts that are so big they have stop lights INSIDE them? Like I said, strange. That first day we didn't go on "real" streets, partially because it was just for me to try it out, but also because I couldn't get my contacts in that morning. It is a lot more windy here than I am used to, and that has taken it's toll on my eyes (or my ability to weather out the wind with my contacts in place).

Here are some observations about driving in the UK, on the left side of the road/right side of the car: (it isn't "wrong," friends. Just different.)

*English drivers are fearless. The roads are so narrow here, and a lot of them still have cars parked on either side of the street. These drivers fold their mirrors in and even sometimes park partially on the sidewalk. But it is still a bit scary driving down these roads next to the parked cars with traffic coming towards you!

*Beyond being fearless, English drivers are extremely courteous. For example, we live on Abbey Road, which is a narrow two way street the width of a one way street, with cars parked on each side. So if you are coming down and someone is coming towards you, one of you has to pull off to the side. Not only does this happen with no hesitation, it is often accompanied by a wave and a smile. Same thing goes for when you are turning. People will just stop and let you turn; most of the time they will flash their lights or wave and just let you go. And very rarely do I hear a honk of a horn.

*Bicyclists are all over the place here, and they certainly have the right of way--and are given it! The drivers are so courteous of the cyclists. I can't get over it. Neither can I get over the fearlessness of the riders! Imagine what I said up there about the narrow streets and cars coming towards you. Now factor in someone (without a helmet, I might add) peddling along on a bicycle next to you!

*Drivers and cyclists seem to be very trusting around here, for all of the reasons I listed above. For example, in the roundabouts. Very few people use their signals, which is going to make it hard for me to learn when it is necessary/appropriate to do so. But people seem to fly right around those roundabouts with nary a care in the world, while still able to stop or change lanes when someone else (me??) is trying to figure out what the heck to do in that thing.

**Lastly, (I am sure this is just me), but I am so much more aware here. For all of the reasons already listed, I have to be on my toes. Bad driving habits accumulated over the last 17 years have been corrected as I try to get the hang of this new and challenging system! Yet when it comes right down to it, so far driving here is a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, and I seem to have gotten the hang of it pretty quickly!!!

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