Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The meerkat report # 6

or Learning how to drive in the UK

Today I had my first driving lesson in the UK. Two full hours of driving on the left side of the road and with the wheel on the right side of the car. Yep, it was quite the suburban adventure! You know what they say that doctors make the worst patients? Well, it turns out the same can be said of drivers. It was the most surreal experience! Because I drove my own car for three years before switching countries, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew how to do it instinctively, on a subconscious level, but now I had to actively do it in reverse.

First there's driving a car that runs on petrol, instead of diesel, which makes it a little bit trickier to handle the clutch. Then there's changing gears and signalling with your left hand. The first few times I kept going for the windscreen wipers instead of the indicators. Also, do you remember that feeling when you first start driving that you're in the middle of the road and that you are going to crash against the cars on the opposite lane when in fact you're just not used to looking at the road from the driver's seat? Well, when you first drive in the UK that feeling comes back again and you have to struggle to keep "in the middle of the road" so that you don't accidentally step onto the curb and run over mothers with buggies. Not to mention that every time the instructor said "Look in your mirrors" I didn't know which ones he meant (there's all sorts of new blindspots now that I'm sitting on the right seat), so I kept looking all over before moving an inch. Oh, and you have to remember that the lane to your right is the slowest, and the one to your left is the fastest. Then there's roundabouts and junctions, what a nightmare! Thankfully the instructor kept saying "danger always comes from the right", which helped enormously! And to top it all off there's national differences! In Portugal we are royally told off if we turn the wheel with our hands still roughly in the 10 and 2 o'clock position (as if I were pulling on a rope), instead we're told to do it crossing our hands. Here it's the opposite. Which, to my mind, seems completely idiotic. So, because I kept turning the wheel the way I was taught to, I kept hearing the words "you drive like a lorry driver". Which I guess wasn't meant as a compliment.

Anyway, I'm glad I booked that class, because as it turns out driving "in reverse" is not as easy as I inicially thought, so I'll be sure to book a few more before venturing on my own. Anyway, at the very least, it makes for a funny story to tell your family and friends back home!

1 comment:

Tati said...

daí o dizeres no facebook que te dizem que conduzes à camionista...ok.