There few things more expressive of individuality, freedom or mobility than the mode of transportation you choose to own. I left my 2001 PT Cruiser in the states to move here to the UK. I loved that car! It was a tiny bit more expensive than Aaron and I should’ve been eyeing, but after we sat in one on the dealership’s lot, well- we were hooked like a 15 year old streetwalker on crack. We ordered one that day and waited six months for it to be manufactured just for us. Ahhh. I miss that car. Enough pining- fast forward to present day.
I live in the UK where I have a multitude of new considerations regarding my methods of transit. I don’t mind the Underground (or as Americans would understand it, the subway), but it’s not always convenient, it’s not always reliable, it’s not easy to do big shopping… It’s a cheap way into London, yeah, to be certain, but it’s not always the answer. Especially if you’re an American girl who’s been driving for nearly 20 years and not been without a car available for more than a spell in college.
I have a bicycle. I like to ride. Erm… but have you seen the way motorists drive in this country? I’ve got a helmet, sure, but I would certainly feel safer with a large steel cage around me. The UK is such a compact network of roads that many times automotive traffic is pushed and pulled into seemingly unsafe practices. To be a bicycle, moped, scooter or motorcycle rider can be the most hazardous position to be in on the road. I had a Vespa in the US and loved it, but here?- no thanks. I’ll take airbags, seat belts and some doors thank you very much.
Another consideration is that I not only need to be able to drive on the roads here, using different markings, lanes, sides of the road and roundabouts, but I also need to rewire my brain to accept right-hand driving mechanics. It’s not easy to gauge the distance to the edge of the passenger side when it’s been exactly opposite for 20 years! I’m find myself getting a little too uncomfortably close on the left side of the car when negotiating past parked cars and kerbs. (Yes, I said “kerbs.” That’s “curbs” in the US…) I’ll adjust, but it’s certainly going to take awhile to tweak my ingrained judgements.
Thankfully, one major stress factor has been eliminated: I am going to drive an automatic. You see, nearly all the cars available here are manual gearboxes. I’ve only recently been exposed to such a thing. I blogged about it in the past, but it’s been thought about, discussed and decided that I need to eliminate the additional stress of learning how to mechanically operate a transmission and focus on the massive differences in the UK driving rules and methods from what I’ve always known in the US. I can get my bearings on the basics now and learn to operate a manual vehicle in the future. I really don’t need both tasks now, so we decided to take the automatic v manual out of the equation for now. * Phweew! *
So, to make a long post shorter than Homer’s Odyssey, Neil and I spent the weekend looking at replacement cars. We decided to get something similar in size to the PT for my best chance at size/shape awareness transition, and we needed an automatic. Believe it or not, we bought an American car! We pick up our deep metallic red Ford Focus later this week. It’s used, in nearly pristine condition with really low miles, comfortable for us both and was under our budget amount. Eventually, I plan on learning how to drive a manual transmission. For now, it’s about getting me on the road. It’s been almost half a year since I’ve driven, (not counting a week in the states with my PT during a visit there), and I’m ready to spread my wings (or should I say wheels?) for a little independence in my newly adopted country.
What I’m listening to right now:
Drive That Fast from the album “Strange Free World” by Kitchens of Distinction