by someone who was taught to drive by her husband (a recipe for divorce they were told)
Reichenau Am Bodensee, Germany
After Grandpa’s little road incident (which are we still being reminded of frequently as the repairs remain incomplete), I was a bit nervous about taking a turn at the wheel. To head for the Autobahn for a first turn ever in a big vehicle and first turn in over seven months in any vehicle at all, seemed a particularly bad idea, and so we were on the road a full week before I slipped into the driver’s seat. It felt neither comfortable nor familiar. Hanging above my head obscuring vision was a whole heap of dented Womo, when I looked out the side windows I could see nothing but Womo, and the back window – I could hardly see that far….I was scared of this beast!
It didn’t help that I couldn’t even turn it on! Of course, you still turn the key clockwise here, but because it’s on the other side of the steering wheel, you have to turn it towards you instead of away from you, a fact this blonde managed to work out for herself, but it left her wondering what else would go wrong! That simple feat accomplished, it was time to find the accelerator, release the handbrake (teaching the left hand to take over this job now, and to reach way down almost to your ankles to even find it), and get into gear. No, not knock the indicators – it’s all backwards and you know that in your head – but you have to relearn to find the gearstick on the other side, a process, it would seem, that will take time.
As I say, it was just like learning to drive again.
We inched along at 20km/hr, thankful I had not made my grand debut on the Autobahn, cautiously swerving about looking for my rightful place on the road. The only way to do this was by looking backwards at where we had just been in the far-away wing mirror; not the most reassuring way of driving forwards, but necessary nonetheless. After half an hour, still in second gear, still watching the wing mirror more than the front windscreen, I decided it is going to take a very very very long time to get to London.
Watch the curb!
Leave plenty of room for that parked car!
Remember the overhead trees!
Don’t knock that lady’s head off – your mirrors stick out wider than the van.
Did you see that bike?
Can you see what’s in your rear view mirror? (No, I’m not even looking!)
Don’t swing too wide.
Don’t go too close.
Hold your line. They have expensive cars – they’ll move out of your way!
And if they don’t I’ll feel very silly hitting them. It’s hard to hold your line when you’re not sure if you’re hogging too much of the road and when you feel way too close to the middle anyway.
But thankfully we were on a little quiet sleepy island with plenty of intersecting roads to get a feel on, and no-one in a hurry this sunny Sunday afternoon.
We found carparks to practise parking (I don’t do parallel in NZ and I sure ain’t going into anything less than two spaces wide here!)
We found empty space to practise reversing. Well, is it right to say “practise” when one has zero visibility and just as little idea of where one is going? Reversing is an exercise in putting your trust in the person standing outside directing you?
All this on the
wrong right side of the road! Actually, that was the easy bit. I think because we have been travelling on the right, we have become accustomed to going around roundabouts the wrong way and turning into the wrong stream of traffic…the hard bit is simply staying on the road!
I hope, with time, like driving, it will become automatic.
And we are still married.
Time on the road: 1 hour
Distance covered: embarrassingly little