Yesterday was a big day for me. In fact, I was really not excited about yesterday. Driving school was not something I was looking forward to. According to my husband, J, I am not a good driver in the US so put me on the other side of the car on the other side of the road and something was going to happen. My parents backed up my husband's confirmation of me being a bad driver when my father sent an email saying "good luck, we hope rubbermaid donated the car for you". Couple my family's positive reinforcement with the fact that I over analyze everything and am an extremely worrisome individual and you will get disaster.
Now one reason I was so excited to move to London was because I wanted to live in a big city and rely on public transportation. I thought that would be the case when we moved to Houston, the 4th largest city in the US. I forgot that Houston was in Texas and "every thing is bigger in Texas". That means, we drive 2 blocks to mail a letter instead of walking. Moving to London means a 15 minute walk to the tube means you live close to the tube and I was ready to experience that. Trains, tubes, buses, you name it, if it was part of public transportation I was all over it. I was not excited about the perk of a company car and I was even less excited that they arranged for a driving school to teach me how to drive.
The day started out well. I walked to the tube, tubed to the train station, took the train to Reading, changed trains, arrived at my location and took a taxi to my company's building. My instructor, Dave, was patiently waiting for me and excited about teaching me to drive. I informed him that I was not excited to drive and was in fact, extremely nervous. After a powerpoint presentation explaining all sorts of UK driving rules to include speed limits, we set off for a drive. I had asked for a small automatic car and instead received a Vauxhall Insignia which in the UK is concerned a family car...in my eyes, it was a boat. The plan was that we would drive to my temporary housing and back again so I could navigate to the offices should I need to drive there. Along the way we would encounter roundabouts, double roundabouts, motorways, dual carriage ways, single carriage ways and urban roads so I could learn to identify them and the speed limits associated with each (they do not post a sign saying Speed Limit 25 like the US).
Sitting on the other side of the car is weird! Driving was even weirder. After my initial shock, I confidently pulled out of the parking lot, ran the left side of the car up on the curb (doing about $300 damage to the left front wheel) and was informed by Dave that we were going the wrong way. Not a great start.
We managed to make it to Central London somehow. Dave was constantly informing me to drive faster since I was comfortable about at about 5-10 miles per hour slower than the national speed limit. I also liked to argue with Dave about which indicator (for you US people reading this - turn signal) I should be using to exit a round about. It all seemed backwards to me, so I just stopped using them. I also started counting roundabout exits after a multiple times of missing an exit much like Clark W. Grizzwald in European vacation (at least they got to see Big Ben). The other weird thing for me was driving in the "correct" lane - to quote Dave. In the US the fast lane is the left lane and in the UK that is the slow lane. (Now I like the left lane.)
All in all, we made it back and only the Insignia suffered some damaged. It was agreed that I would be deemed a high risk driver so I could receive another driving lesson. The keys for the Insignia were turned back in and I was informed a smaller car would be delivered on Monday. I have never wanted a pint more than I did halfway through that drive. I honestly think drinking and driving would have made it easier as I wouldn't have tried to think about everything and would have just driven.
For now, I am sticking to public transportation. I signed up for auto top off on my Oyster card and all of the greater London area will thank me!