I used to be a good driver…

13 Jan

…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.

Unlike here.

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.

yellow box junction

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.


26 Responses to “I used to be a good driver…”

  1. Karin January 13, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Did you ship the mini van over from the US? I’d be parking it and buying a smaller car! I’ve only recently begun to read your blog. What took you to Ireland? I’m adopted and recently found out through genetic testing that I’m at least 50% Irish (my birth mother most likely had two 100% Irish parents)

    • Kelsie January 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      Where did you get your testing done? I am adopted also, want do DNA testing. Just curious:-)

  2. phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Karin – no, we bought the van here! LOL! We can’t go smaller because something smaller won’t fit six people decently, especially if we want to pack anything in with us to travel (we know this, we rented a bunch of different vehicles while here.) Okay, the Ford S-Max was cool, but ten thousand more than the Chrysler.

    as for how we got here – for the adventure (albeit safe adventure as we’d been here before and the husband found a job first.) We thought it’d be fun to drag kids to Europe to live, and Ireland had the advantage of both being a place we liked, and an English speaking country.

  3. Rachael January 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Go smart car! You’ll look so cute dashing around town. Now you’d have to buy all the kids their own smart cars – or hang them off the roof though. Small problem but!

  4. Tim January 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    So, if you get a smart car, would you tie the kids to the roof? 😀

    I met a man from Ireland the other day and he says they don’t use maps, they give directs by the pub, “Just go down this road and turn left at Kelly’s pub”. Maybe the whole sign thing is new.

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      The only way I know around the Grafton Street area is by pubs!

      And if I get a Smart car…I’ll just leave the kids at home. Or take my favorite with me 😉

  5. Sharon weidemann January 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I’d say you are an ever changing and witty brave gal who braved moving to a new place and learning to live outside your comfort zone. Pretty cool in my eyes.

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Life’s too short for comfort zones…or at least, that’s what I keep reminding myself!

  6. audreygjohnson January 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I’m impressed that you’re even attempting to drive! I’ve traveled a bit in Southeast Asia and the Middle East and I’ve sworn off driving in those places. Never. Ever. Props to you for getting out there!

  7. Anja Olson January 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I love reading your posts…..get yourself a mini….more room than a Smart car and tons of fun!

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      if I could get anything small…it’d be a Fiat 500. Or a classic Mini. Or the funny looking little 1950’s looking car I saw at the shopping centre.

      Or maybe I should just get a Vespa!

  8. Deb January 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    How nice the truck driver was. Here in the US he probably would have impatiently honked his horn and you’d still have no clue of the “unstated rule”.

  9. musicmom52L January 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Wow! I think you are doing a great job! Just daring to drive in that traffic is being great in my mind. I think I would just not do it! Reminds me of the “round abouts” in this country! When they are first installed on roads, Americans really wonder what to do! And often they forget to yield to the traffic on the right!

  10. ntouch2cher January 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Kudos on you for even driving there!! I have family in Bally Bunion and my uncle, here in Canada, tells me how narrow and not so straight the roads are. Frankly, just crossing the streets of London took me forever cuz I could not stop looking both ways (looking like the kid in Exorcist)! That truck driver is a nice guy…his mama did a good job:)

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      I’ve driven in Co. Clare, along the coastal road – blew out two tires on a rock that I never even saw. The experience has me terrified of getting too close to curbs and walls and road edges. And yeah, I’m a total bobble-head at traffic lights. I depend on that little green man light to tell me when to cross!

  11. Di January 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Phew, that is confusing. Come and visit us in South Africa… we don’t seem to have any road rules, or rather, I should say… our mini bus/taxi’s make their own rules (it’s very hectic!) 😉

  12. Suzi January 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    I’m a fellow American living in England and I haven’t even bothered driving since I got here in May 2003. The fact that you’re even willing to brave the sidewalks they call roads out here means you’re one up! lol

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      From what I’ve learned here…sometimes sidewalks become part of the roads. I also love the “make your own parking spot” – thank goodness, b/c I can’t fit our van into our driveway (opening’s too narrow.)

  13. Lisa Jane January 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    ‘That’s grand.’ Well you’re certainly beginning to sound Irish! And if you keep your foot on the clutch you won’t cut out 😛 haha just kidding I’m sure you knew that…btw its cool reading about how an american views life in Ireland…apparently we’re very odd!

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      The problem wasn’t the clutch – I just forgot you can’t start from 2nd gear. Sheesh.

      and I don’t think the Irish are odd – I grew up in a very Irish neighborhood of Chicago, so some things totally make sense to me now! LOL! Okay, no outlets in the bathroom is just weird. And the lack of spicy food may do me in. And butter on ham sandwiches. And mayonnaise on everything. And the lasagna at Tesco is weird. But other than that…lol!

  14. Lisa Jane January 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Sorry that posted three times :/ my computer doesn’t like me today!

    • phoebz4 January 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      No worries, fixed it 🙂

  15. Raenna January 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Great story, dont worry we all have our days, I’ve been driving 20 years and still have issues. Hopefully the day got better.

  16. Mara January 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    You are brave to try. I never drove when I lived in France, way too scared. The French drive crazy, pretty sure most of them have a death wish.

  17. Tacey Rose O'Neil January 27, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    To funny Phoebe!! At this point I would have gotten out of my van, sat down in the yellow box and cried!! But as Im reading you mentioned stalling out your van and a flash of memories came back, which followed with a big smile. 😀 Two 17 yo girls, one who has just got her 1st car. Stick. LOL!! Stall, stall, stall, stall, spin tires loudly!!!! GO! Stall again, stall, stall, screech tires like a race car driver and GO!! I remember wanting to cry and you just kept giggling, which made me start to giggle, which lead to straight up laughter for the rest of the day. Great memories!!! I miss you!!

    • phoebz4 January 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      I’m such a good friend…what’s that saying? I’ll help you get right back up, as soon as I finish laughing at you 😉

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