09 April 2009

Driving ambition


Driving in England. I agonize over this one activity like nothing else in my life.

Here was my plan. The D.E.B. and I had planned to do our big Easter shop yesterday evening. Then, a thought flickered through my mind: it was a bright sunny day, I was feeling frisky and chirper, why not do the Sainsbury’s run by myself?

You see, The D.E.B. has been being a very good lad, and has been cycling to work, so the car (a.k.a.,"The Tank”) has been sitting on our drive, taunting me, teasing and tempting me.

What am I so afraid of? I don’t really know exactly. The stupid thing is that I actually learned to drive here in Britain. Years and years ago, while I was a graduate student the opportunity to learn to drive presented itself, and I took it. Took the test, two or three times, and eventually passed. I know how to drive, and am licensed to do so.

But that was many, many years ago, and in the interim, living in the States—my fellow Americans will have to forgive me, but I must say this—I have become a very lazy driver. Driving in America is a doddle. You could do it in your sleep, in fact, I am sure that I have driven in my sleep!

To me, it seems that driving is quite a casual affair in the States, where else in the world would one find “Drive-Thru Liquor Stores”? I remember one time, when I was in high school, some friends and I were out on the town; we went to the “Drive Thru” liquor store/off-license for some Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers (Egad, I’m showing my age here.)

And, I kid you not, as the man behind the counter, leaned out of the window to hand us our package, he said to the driver: “You want me to open those for ya?”  I wanted to shout from the back seat: “She’s driving!”

More than casualness, there is just the matter of skill sets. In many ways, at least for me, it seems that driving in Britain requires a different set of skills. And that’s what worries me. It will just take a bit of time for my brain to re-re-adjust to driving here.

I did make it to Sainsbury’s yesterday, though. And proudly did the big Easter shop all on my own. Felt very empowered and liberated. (And got a super deal on whole salmon!) My victory was bittersweet, however...a minor boo-boo that resulted in a cracked, passenger wing mirror.



Elizabeth said...

OMG, can I relate! I never drove there much but my ex-DEB (turned out not to be so D in the end) tried to teach me. On the country roads in Wales we thought best... yet I still almost killed a couple herds of sheep and was nearly taken out by a pick-up going 80 MPH. Oh.. I had never driven stick before either. FUN!!! English country roads are the only thing that give me motion sickness. I'd rather walk...

notfromaroundhere said...

So far I've been too scared to try to drive in the UK, so whenever I'm back in the states I rent a car so I can be sure I remember how to drive! I'm totally with you, though, it is definitely much easier in the US than the UK. The UK is like an obstacle course, tiny narrow streets with people parked everywhere, mystifying roundabouts and uncontrolled intersections, blind corners... even just walking around feels dangerous!!!

Michelloui said...

I lived in Whitechapel for 7 years before I moved to the countryside and HAD to get my UK license. I was terrified of roundabouts. Then suddenly something switched and they became The Challenge That Had To Be Overcome and Overcome them I did! Now I love the mini chaos of a roundabout, the bigger the better. Strange? Possibly... I know whenever I have a visiting American in the car with me I get a thrill from showing off how smoothly I negotiate these circles of terror.

You are correct, it is a very different way of thinking when driving here. I think it is much less about rules and much more about just getting through safely. I have a little ford focus so that helps!

Be brave and good luck!!


An American Girl in the UK said...

"Circles of terror" indeed! :)