Monday, August 4, 2008

Just Go! But Hug the Center Line

This is part of a 6-part story which begins here.

Drive on the Left! (part 3)

“Here you are!” he said, pointing to a miniature red car in the lot.

That’s it? Three tips. That’s all I get? I felt a bit gypped. I mean, I thought maybe ten or twelve tips… a baker’s dozen. Just three tips?

I tried to look cool and confident as I crossed the parking lot – oh, I mean car park. The little red Nissan looked friendly and cute. It was one of those tiny, round European cars – about the size of a Mini Cooper with four doors and a back seat designed for third graders.

Nonchalantly, I sidled up to the door and unlocked it. Damn. I opened the door and found I was standing on the passenger’s side. Seriously? They were going to let me drive away with this car? And with only paying €14 in extra insurance costs? I tried to pass my mistake off as intention: I put my backpack and purse on the passenger seat and then walked around to the other side to get in.

Sitting in the driver’s seat felt oddly familiar and yet disorienting all at once. The gearshift and the parking break were on the left, but the windshield wipers and the lights were on the steering column where they belong. The radio was where it belongs – but now it was on the left, too. Fortunately, the pedals were in the same place. Until I sat down I hadn’t even considered the thought that perhaps the pedals would be different. They were not. Gas. Brake. My foot found the familiar positions.

I’d decided that if I needed to, I could just drive to the hotel parking lot and leave the car for the day. It wasn’t far. I knew I could make it that far. But if it went ok, I was going to head to a ruined abbey about 30 km away. I wrote out my route: N18 to R471 to R462 to R469 to Quin. I started the car. Hug the center line. Hug the center line. Hug the center line. And suddenly I was out of the car park and on the airport road. I was driving on the left!  

To be continued...

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