Matt will never be in charge of teaching Sarah how to drive…and he knows it! My first experience driving in England left a lot to be desired. Matt, we shall call him AI (as in Annoying Instructor), did not want to give up control of the car–thus began the imminent downfall of my first lesson.
Now, I’d like to point out that I do know how to drive a manual vehicle; I just don’t like to drive them. There are too many things going on: 3 pedals, a gear shift, hands at 10 and 2, etc. How am I supposed to worry about all of this, keep ‘AI’ calmed down, drive on the wrong side of the road, and have a calming sip of my cocktail? (Just kidding, just needed a sip of kool-aid to quench my dry mouth!)
So, initially we pulled into the parking lot of a little farm store out in the middle of nowhere. I felt it would be safe to start there…you know, not a lot of traffic to contend with, and there happened to be only 1 roundabout to deal with on our way home. I started out strong–backed out of the parking space. No one died, I didn’t stall the car and no one got whiplash. AI stayed silent. Putting it in first, I again killed no one, the car didn’t stall and AI stayed quiet. Since it was a parking lot, I never went above 2nd gear! Woo-hoo to me!
Came out of the parking lot to the main road and realized I was on an incline. Crappers. Someone pulled up behind me, double crappers. I immediately stalled it twice. The hazard lights came on, and AI offers to drive. Told him to hush and just sit there…so he does, white knuckled and trying to get the guy behind me to go around. Now, if we were in America, the guy behind us would have immediately done so 2 seconds after the blinkers came on. Here in England they are so freaking polite that he waited a full 2-3 minutes (although it seemed like a lot longer to me) to go around. And to make me feel worse, he pulled up beside me with a big smile on his face, waved, and took off. (Cue the blush of embarassment!)
So, after taking a couple of deep breaths, asking AI what I was doing wrong–I’m not too proud to ask for help–and then taking his advice, I finally got out of the damn parking lot onto the country road. Yah for me!!! (If you’ve never been on an English country road, then let me give you a brief description. They are just big enough for a large piece of farm machinery. Squeezing 2 cars on them is a suicide mission, yet it happens 24/7/365!) I’m now driving on the country road and getting some of my confidence back when AI yells, “Get over, we’re too close to the side of the road!” Again, country road, about the width of my own vehicle. I may not be a great driver of manual cars, but I have great depth perception. I was fine.
We get to my next big test, the killer roundabouts–going left mind you! I underestimated the terror that comes from these things; and the amount of traffic on this one specifically. No sooner do I pull up then a million cars start my way. I see a break in traffic, and try to take advantage of it. I stall the car. CRAPPERS! I get honked at, my heart is in my throat and I’m sweating. (Seriously, I didn’t have this much trouble learning to drive when I was 11–thank you back-woods country roads of Georgia for that ability!) AI again offers suggestions, I take them and then off we go, safe and sound. I get us home, but Matt parks the car because I’ve had too much drama in 20 minutes and want to get out of the car. (In no way was Sarah in any danger during the driving lesson!)
Take 2: I drive us home from a busy part of town the following day, in the rain, and utilizing a major interstate–only stalled it once. I told AI he wasn’t allowed to say anything or act scared/nervous in any way; I did just fine.
This past week, Matt was in Germany, so I had the car all week. I made sure to go out every day and visited places that had a large amount of roundabouts and high traffic volume. I did just fine and only had issues when I was stopped on an incline. I don’t think anything stresses me out more than an incline with someone behind me.
In conclusion, AI admitted he doesn’t do a good job of hiding/masking the fear/nervousness in his body language. And instead of yelling something, calmly suggesting a different course of action would suffice.
Watch out England!!! Matt is gone again this week, so I’ll have the car for more practice time. I’ve asked Louise, my neighbor and police officer, if she and her girls wanted to go to a local park with Sarah and me. That way, I could get some one on one help regarding traffic laws.
(I did have AI, or Matt, read this, just in case I misunderstood some of his action/comments. “You did a good job of describing me.” was his response. He then smiled and went off to iron his clothes!)
To end on a happy note for all of you: