…and then I moved here.
I drive a “big” car, by Irish standards – a Chrysler Voyager mini-van. It’s actually a lot smaller than the Chevy Suburban I’d whip around in with ease back in the States. The difference is that in the U.S., there are wide roads and big parking spaces and not as many signs everywhere.
Here, there are signs and lines and yellow boxes and three lights for the four northbound lanes. And the four lanes, well, one is the bus/taxi lane, two are for going straight, one is right turn (or as I call it “our idea of a left turn”.) You can come up to a light with two sets of lights facing you – one red (for the turn lane) and a green arrow for those going straight. The lane you’re in can then veer off towards the left as you go through the intersection. The best is the one near our house, where there are three lanes going one way, one lane going the other. You really have to pay attention when you make the right turn. Especially as it’s by all the shopping, so people are darting across the road.
All while driving on the not right side of the road, with your mirrors adjusted weirdly, and guys on motorcycles weaving around jaywalkers and old ladies with shopping trolleys, carting home their milk and eggs and bread.
Are you confused yet? That’s grand. Now you know how I feel driving.
But I am getting used to it, which means of course, I have to screw up. Today, I stalled out the van not once, but twice.
Oh, did I mention our mini van is a stick shift?
Yeah, it’s a stick shift. Which I stalled out twice today because my brain decided to pause for a moment as I tried to figure out which way to go.
The best part though was this weird side road along the N11 (a highway of sorts that cuts through town.) First, I had to figure out if the road I was turning on was a one way. I decided to risk it. Luckily, it wasn’t. But then, there was a light before getting on the N11. But at the light was space for many one car…and then a big yellow box.
So these big yellow boxes on the road are off limits if you can’t clear it. You have to wait, leaving it open so traffic turning into your lane can easily scoot in. You’re not allowed to be in it and stopped.
So there I am, at this strange intersection, huge yellow box in front of me, and a light after that.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
So I wanted a moment. Then two. Wondered if the light would change. It didn’t. Then a truck pulled up behind me. I’m still waiting, wondering if maybe I should pull forward.
Then I notice the truck driver getting out of his vehicle.
I wasn’t scared – I just knew that somehow, I was being a dufus about whatever rule there was for this junction. I rolled down the window, and the truck driver very nicely pointed out that I needed to pull up past the box, because the light was on a sensor.
Four thousand other road signs and symbols on the road telling you what to do, and they couldn’t clue a driver in on this one?
I thanked him, and was thankful for having a foreign accent to explain my ignorance. He smiled and hurried back to his truck as I drove through the box junction. Sure enough, as I pulled up to the light, it turned green.
I glanced in my rear-view mirror…and saw a huge line of cars that had been waiting for me to move.
oops. my bad. sorry.
I swear, I used to be a good driver.
Even worse…I found myself lusting after a Smart car, as it whipped down the narrow side street with ease.
I have no clue who I am anymore.