I have been a comfortable and confident driver for over twenty years. Driving in the UK isn’t so bad either- roundabouts? Not so bad. Other side of the road? Not bad either. Manual shifting? Not really equipped for that…
I took my first driving lesson in twenty-odd years today, specifically to obtain my full license (one that doesn’t restrict me to only driving in the company of a fully qualified UK driver) and it was weird. Not uncomfortable, not anxiety-filled… just weird. I never realised how underused my left leg has been all these years and how much automatic driving agrees with my brain more. I like fixing my focus on my surroundings and possible hazards without the diverted brain power demanded by pulling or pushing two additional levers and one more pedal. Easy is good, right? Why fight technology if it wants to change our gears for us?
Well, on this side of the Atlantic, driving an automatic is a rarity. We have one, but only because we made a point to buy one after I moved over so I could get used to the changes in driving behaviour. We love our automatic, but now that we live rurally, there is a likelihood that we’ll buy a secondhand stick shift of some sort or another in the next year or so. You could say I’m preparing, but I’m also trying to be more capable. Neil is relied upon to drive us everywhere (unless I’m behind the wheel with his company as passenger) and this is a tiresome arrangement. In the US, I could just get out and do what needed done without worry, but here I am on the equivalent level with the average learner driver. Let me tell you, after more than twenty years of independence, it’s getting old being a student again.
So why not just get my automatic license? (Yes, they actually do that here; give you a lower-grade license for automatic cars.) Because it’s pointless to go through instructor training and tests and not bundle the new skill in at the same time. More stressful? A bit. I’m learning a new skill and it’s changing the wiring I’ve had in my brain for ages. I’ll get there. Lessons aren’t cheap, and neither are the theory and practical tests (lessons are really the worst cash hemorrhage though), but it’ll be worth it for sanity, convenience – and ultimately – for my piece of mind. Odds are, if you threw a stone into a car park here, you wouldn’t hit an automatic. At least now I know that if I need to hot-wire and steal a car to escape a hungry mob of zombies, I’ll be prepared.
Now all I need is a boom stick and a chainsaw.