I didn’t think it would be hard to transition back to a country where you drive on the wrong side of the road: I did live in India after all, and I can’t imagine that traffic and traffic rules/lack thereof, could be any more complicated. So, when I got behind the wheel 2 weeks ago today to try my hand at driving, I was in for a surprise!
The issue isn’t merely driving on the wrong side, and constantly thinking about what side you are supposed to be on, especially when merging into a new lane or turning onto a new street, the problem is that the streets are SO narrow!
I read somewhere (okay, actually I saw it on mid-day tv, but saying I read it makes me sound much more intellectual!) that the ingenious behind the American road system is it’s continuity. All roads are the same width, there are as few turns and curves as possible. They are, in essence, simplistic. It’s the simplistic continuity that enables us to drive across country in a matter of days, or drive 1K miles in one day. It’s no big deal to drive 2 hours to IKEA, and we think nothing of driving 20-30 minutes to the grocery store.
Life isn’t so on this side of the pond. People, apparently, don’t give directions by distance, but by time. For example, I live a mere 20 miles south of London. I’ve been told on a Saturday without any traffic it can take over an hour to get there. This is partly because there aren’t interstates, and so it is all these small, country roads through little towns with cars parked on either side that you drive for 20 miles. The default speed limit is 30 MPH, which seems insanely slow, but, having driven for a few weeks now, I can saw that that’s about right.
My first time driving I started driving down the wrong side of the road, and if it weren’t for my instructor, I would have hit something on my left within seconds! 2 weeks in, I’m starting to feel a bit more confident about my lane position, but still have to think at every turn which lane I’m supposed to turn into. I have often wondered if driving will ever be relaxing again, or if it will always be a mental challenge. The good news is that, other than a few curbs, I havne’t hit anything yet.
I can drive on my American driver’s license for up to a year, at which point I have to take the much discussed driving test. We’ll see how that goes, but at least for now, I’m driving and have freedom to get around, and even if it takes hours or days, I can explore this entire little island. And that’s exactly what I intend to do!