Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, March 14, 2014

Driving a car in Australia

After Cairns we flew back to Brisbane to then drive a car for the next nine days to Sydney. We rented a small, white Hyundai, a nice enough car, almost brand new with just 27,000 km on the dash. A piece of cake to drive, albeit is has stick shift, not automatic. And, let us not forget, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. So in order to shift, you need to do it left handed. Yes, you will use the other side of your brain to do this. I have driven on the left side of the road before. Once in England, but it was a left steering wheel European mainland car, so the steering wheel was not on the 'wrong' side. I was 24 at the time and really did not have much trouble then. It was the same car, a VW bug, that I always drove. I just drove on the left side of the road. The other time I experienced driving on the left was in a rented van with the whole family in the car when we vacationed in Ireland for a fortnight. I still do not remember finding it that difficult then, I was in my mid-40s when I last drove on the left.
Now, at age 66, having constantly driven on the right side of the road, I feel like I am again learning how to drive. The stick shift gives me no problems, even though I do it left handed, it feels ok. As a child, before school started I was left handed so some remnants may still be in my brain. I do not have trouble thinking left, but the spacial distribution of the car, the way the car is placed inside the lane creates problems. I have to, very consciously, remind myself all the time to 'hug' the center line. Carol, as a passenger, is very helpful when I am too far left. I don't know why I drive way too far on the left but in Brisbane, in real city traffic, I clipped somebody's rear view mirror with my outside mirror. Nothing happened to my mirror, it folded inward and had some scuff marks. Carol used some elbow grease to scrub those marks off. The other car however had a dangling drivers mirror. The driver of that car was good about it. He made some phone calls to see how much it would be to fix his mirror and after handing him $500 dollars we shook hands and each went our way. There is no better way to learn to not drive too far left than when one has to pay this kind of tuition. Nobody was hurt, so all is well.
Driving on the left is an experience. The directional signal needs to be activated with your right hand. Stop a minute and think about this. When you make a left, use your right hand to set the blinkers. Early in the morning, when you start driving out of the parking lot, think LEFT side. You become instantly wide awake if you veer to the right. In a way it is fun to relearn the rules of the road. Traffic from the right has the right of way. When entering a road look to the right. Even the rear view mirror is now on your left. Oh, it is fun to drive on the left. It sure gives me a whole new perspective. 6 more days to learn how to drive on the left, then we fly back to Toronto and I will be driving on the right side of the road. A crazy world !

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