Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Look kids, Big Ben...

Is it just me, or does this picture have the trappings of the occult? Clearly, whoever conceived roundabouts was a practitioner of the dark arts.

It was my biggest worry upon moving to the UK - how the heck to figure out driving in the "bizzaro" universe. My US license is good for a year, but I'll have to buck up and pass the full UK test before the clock runs out. I've resisted driving school so far, but maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea.

Let's discuss the thorny topic of navigation. It's a shock to the system, this small island with mini-cars, all driving at once. The US was the land of wide open spaces, which gave birth to my father's favorite motoring exclamations, such as, "Could have backed up and done it again," and "Could have fit a Mack truck through there." I could navigate by gas station, restaurant, or heaven forbid, street name.

The days of drivin' easy are over, my friends. All the square pegs have been replaced with round holes. Intersections approach quickly with a myriad of driving options. Chumley's "helpful" suggestion to "turn right at the next roundabout" resulted in a bit of a fuse ignition. I replied, "But how can I? It's all a series of lefts!" Right. Or, should I say, correct.

Lane use is its own dark art. Car parks (parking lots) are the lawless Wild West. And, of course, all this is happening on the left. The Ministry of Transport has also seen fit to write helpful little messages on the pavement, usually about which lane to use for which of the four roads convene on a single point. Unlucky if you aren't reading the road, or are too busy trying to remember at which mulberry bush to turn left.

I have prior experiences with these messages from the traffic gods. While travelling a country road, I accidentally didn't let the mind/mouth filter catch the question, "What does mois mean? And why are the words in French?" All in the car were stumped. After all, here's what the road said...

After some follow-up questioning about where exactly I had read this French note, the car burst out in laughter. I was hit by the comedy grenade about five seconds later, when I realized that any messages the Ministry of Transport had for us would be printed on the left, and they certainly wouldn't ever be in French.

Hey, I'll have you know I've recovered from the early days of driving dunce-o-rama. Chumley no longer looks like he needs a carsick bag if I'm in charge of transportation, and I've only caught myself drifting right once. And that was at church, so God wouldn't have allowed any sort of incident on His property. No harm, no foul.

If God is watching, I suppose I ought to fess up that I had a little incident in my early days involving a massive Volvo and a farm outbuiding. Yes, dear readers, apparently I can hit the broad side of a barn with a large Swedish car that could hold its own smorgasboard. No one in this country drives a car that big, so I maintain I was framed. What's life without a little paint transfer?

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