12 February 2012

Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Today was my first foray into driving in the UK. I drive a manual at home, so I figured I'd try and get a manual license (because if you don't, you're restricted to buying a car that's an automatic). Anyway, my instructor picked me up at 9am (ungodly hour that I am for some reason repeating next Sunday) and brought me to a nice quiet street not far from my house. He gave me the run-down of what his strategy with me would be teaching-wise, and then handed me the keys to the car.

My first thought was "f*ck I just forgot everything." (A similar thought ran through my mind the first day of exams last year).

It ended up being ok, though. The pedals are all in the same place that I'm used to, which made my life just that much brighter. The main difference is the way I am supposed to drive in order to pass this test. Granted, I completely understand why they are so super aware about driving here. One, the roads are a heck of a lot smaller than in the US. Two, the roads are SUPER narrow and windy. Three, did I mention the roads? I mean, god. They're small.

Anyway, today, my instructor told me that I was a very good driver, but I was too fast coming to junctions and I didn't check my mirrors enough. For the test, I need to be checking my rear-view mirror every 5-8 seconds (to which my reaction was WHAT). For my speediness, I will blame the Mini Cooper that I drive at home, because darn it, it's just more fun to be zippy in that thing than cautious! But really, the checklists I need to remember to drive here are just bonkers.

Example: moving off from being parked on the side of the road. First, place the car in 1st gear (note: it's still got the handbrake on). Second, find the bite point (basically where the clutch picks up the gas and you no longer need to have your foot on the clutch). Third, 6 point visual check (left blind spot, left side mirror, ahead of you, rear-view mirror, right side mirror, right blind spot). Fourth, release the handbrake, move off, and check ONE MORE TIME on your right side to make sure you're not about to run some poor person over.

Suffice it to say that I had a hard time trying to remember everything in the order I'm supposed to do them. And I've been driving for 10 years. I mean, I'm sure I do similar things at home just because I'm in the habit of doing them (and I've managed to remain accident-free for the majority of my driving career thus far). But goodness. It can be a bit overwhelming.

Bottom line: re-learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road is a bit of a drag.

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