Friday, March 9, 2007

Stay Off the Sidewalks.

I (KT) had my first British driving lesson on Wednesday. I set up the driving lesson because 1) there's a thing we want to go to on Saturday that's in a village outside Cambridge, 2) renting an automatic costs twice as much as a manual, and 3) I am the manual driver of the family.

I shall further summarize with the following: We will be taking the bus on Saturday.

Really, by the end of the lesson, I was fairly comfortable with being on the left side of the road and the right side of the car, and even with shifting with my left hand, although I did whap the door a couple of times with my right hand. My biggest problem was understanding that there was a whole half a car on my left side. I clipped curbs, came dreadfully close to cyclists, and would roll through narrow streets at .02 mph because I didn't have a good feel for how much car was to my left.

The other problem was that I'm not sure I ever "learned" to drive a stick shift as much as I just sort of did it. I apparently press the clutch too much. And I don't know if this is a UK thing or a thing I just flat out never learned, but the instructor had me put the handbrake on at EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT. Seriously?? It's to prevent rollback on hills, he says. You know, here in The Fens, the flattest place on Earth. After looking around at red lights and not seeing brakelights, I realized that pretty much everyone else does this, too. In the UK we get a red/yellow light a second before the green light, so it's in that time that you let up the clutch and release the brake. This was NOT easy to get used to.

Anyway, I'm glad there are some traffic circles in DC, because I was at least familiar with the roundabout concept. I went through small roundabouts, big roundabouts, miniroundabouts, and double miniroundabouts.

Also to contend with are the various types of pedestrian crossings: The pelican, the puffin, the toucan, and the zebra. And no, I am not making that up.

I think I pretty much had a handle on it by the end, and I was certainly more comfortable on my bicycle after the lesson. But for now, pedestrians are safe, for I shall take the bus this weekend.

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