Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I'm Not Walking in the Rain! or, How I Learned to Drive in Britain

It is probably a little unnecessary to begin this post by writing about how much Americans love their cars, but it's true. I love to drive. I love my car. You probably do too! Cars mean freedom and you know how we Americans feel about our freedom.

Before my move, the Secret Agent and I discussed how we would be a one car family. I found this very upsetting. In my defense, it takes a little bit of living here to realize just how eye-wateringly expensive it is to operate a vehicle between the cost of the car (think how much you would pay in dollars, then increase that by 50%, then add 20% sales tax), road tax, insurance, mandatory vehicle testing and inspections and $9.50/gallon gas.

"BUT YOU DRIVE TO WORK!!!!" I would cry. "How will I go places when you are gooooonnnnnnnnneeee??!!!"

I can assure you that these complaints were met with little sympathy and with replies like, "you can walk" or "there's a bus that goes there". When I explained to him just how much it rained in England/how am I supposed to walk, he promptly told me to bring an umbrella. AN UMBRELLA. Heartless man. I kid; he had a point. Needless to say I've gotten every penny's worth of use out of the Kate Spade wellies I invested in before I came.

So in the weeks leading up to our wedding, in an attempt to grant me some of my lost freedom of mobility, the Secret Agent made it his mission to teach me how to drive a stick***.  I learned to drive a manual with my left hand on the wrong side of the road in tiny villages with winding, narrow streets and hills and the world's-tiniest-roundabouts and country lanes lined with hedgerows. It probably would've been a little bit easier if the car we drove wasn't a hand-me-down, French-engineered jalopy whose clutch had to be kicked, stick hand to be manhandled, and occasionally wouldn't reverse, but we got there in the end. 

It got a little more complicated when we tried to add me to the insurance policy and they flat out refused to believe/their computers couldn't compute someone my age who has held a driving license for ten years. 

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, that got sorted, and then I was free to practice and sign up for my not one-but-two driving tests! Because, ya know, I obviously don't know how to operate a vehicle safely if I've been driving for a decade. More on that later.

***I can now attest that taking on a project of such magnitude two weeks pre-wedding is probably not the greatest idea.


  1. Don't forget the part where you have to beep your horn when going around blind curves that are also narrow bridges!

    1. Oh...right! Those are so easy to forget :)

  2. Oh man, the thought of driving with the stick on the left side makes my brain hurt.

    Also, I hope that you're planning on posting pictures of your village. I need to see this place.

  3. This makes me want to throw up a little, I'm so stressed just reading about driving on the wrong side of the road. And I DEFINITELY wouldn't be able to do it on a a manual car.

  4. Yes. I miss my car. So many missed opportunities here because I've not got one.

    And what's up with the handbrake usage in normal traffic? I chuckle in my head everytime I'm in a car with someone who learned to drive here and they engage the parking brake at a stoplight.