Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Wrong side

We have hired a car to explore Florida. Hot, humid, torrential-rain-ridden (while we're here, at least) Florida.

There is one downside to having a 23 year old Boyfriend; that I am designated driver for 9 days. If we wanted to add him, it would have been an extra $25 per day. This means, for example, that although he has been driving for 6 years and has never had an accident, someone over 25 who has been driving for 2 days can hire a car even if they only passed their test yesterday. It's a ridiculous system.

But I like driving. I'm a good driver. I'm a decisive driver. I can negotiate London's streets of confusion without a fuss. But driving on the wrong side of the road in America is a different story. Neither of us has done it before. We are the epitome of the perfect match, but the mood changes as soon as we get into the car. He yells at me, I yell back. We snap and wind each other up. He points out things that I've already noticed, advises me as we drive along. Pardon the pun, but it drives me mad. I think we're both a bit nervous.

It's not so much the driving on the right thing, but a whole new set of driving rules that have to be followed. You can turn on a red light, as long as no one's crossing the road. The traffic lights are across the junction instead of next to where you stop. American drivers do not, I repeat, do not use their indicators. They do use their horns regularly, though, and zoom up behind you in huge pickup trucks flashing their lights. Largely, I suspect, because they can't be bothered to think of another solution to the problem they face.. While exploring Miami Beach the other night, we discovered - much to my amusement - that the slightest of bends in the road are marked with great big flashing lights. Oh, and pedestrians have right of way...on the road. This apparently gives human beings license to shelve common sense, and walk out in front of your vehicle.

It's nuts.

But then we are in a country which celebrates Independence Day with an annual eating competition. Scoffing your face is a sporting event, apparently, seeing as it was broadcast live on ESPN.

Nuts, I tell you. Nuts.


Zstep said...

Ummm, you're very nice and I'm sure quite cute...but you Brits do it all wrong. Steering on the right side of the car? Driving on the left? Madness.

Having survuved 2 weeks in Ireland recently, driving the wrong insane way you people (and I lump you in with the Irish for this purpose), I have absolutely no sympathy for you, none.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Hosh tosh! We've got it sorted over the pond! Who needs eight - I counted them on my way back from TGI Fridays in Tampa just now - eight lanes of traffic on a normal road? And why can't I fill up my car without paying for it first?

Bonkers country.

Ellie said...

Careful: the rule is 'right on red' and it's not observed everywhere -- only in advanced places (driving laws vary from state to state) where people can use their common sense.

You can only turn right on a red signal where there is no one coming. Except in some even more highly advanced places where you can turn left on red if you are turning from 1 one-way to another one-way street. That final nuance threw My Man for a loop. I quite like it.

Ellie said...

ps - I shit myself driving in London. Not very lady-like, I know.

AFC 30K said...

I agree with you whole heartedly Jo. Bonkers, especially the bit about school buses. That just seems to make people drive like idiots to get past them before they stop.

Also cops on every street corner. I wonce saw 11 police cars stop a guy on a moped in Miami.

Anonymous said...

It sounds terrifying! Driving is one of those things that becomes 'natural' as you learn. I find that I don't really *think* when I am driving, I just *do* according to the situation and reading the road. And this comes from just being used to driving on the left. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to cope with everything being on the other side, let alone all these other rules!

The Designer likes to 'back seat' drive when I am behind the wheel. I don't like backseat drivers at the best of times but he hasn't even passed his test! The cheek!

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Yes, I'm with Z. I'm not sure what you mean by this "wrong side" stuff. Seems perfectly normal to me. And U.S.A = land of the nuts. Hadn't you heard already? I thought your trip to the U.S. was to confirm.

Anonymous said...

My memory of driving in Florida is that half the roads didn't appear on the maps, and directions are tiny and located right by your turn off, so you got plenty of practice at doing illegal U-turns and saying the sentence "that was our turning". Plus, for the "home of the car", the roads were in appalling condition.

Good luck!

London-Lass said...

Oo ... arguing (albeit in weird/nervous type way). Are you also doing lots of making up too ... ? (that comment was not meant to sound quite so pervy pervy leery leery as it came out)

^As for Zstep (above) : I would beg to differ. Ours is the right way, it's everyone else that's back to front.

Zstep said...

I'm not sure why you have an issue with cars stopping for school buses. It was implemented because of the danger to children crossing the street in front of the bus and oncoming cars not being able to see them until it was too late.

Do you support the running down of poor unsuspecting school children? Barbarians, the lot of you.

James said...

When I first got here I drove for a few months before taking my US test (it's allowed, for some reason), and the school bus thing totally threw me.

The first time a bus stopped and stuck out its little stop sign, I was passing in the outside lane and the gf had to yell at me to brake---I basically did an emergency stop and pulled to a halt beside the bus. No kids were crossing in front of me at the time, but if they had been I'd probably have mentally scarred them for life.

Here's the thing---a stop sign is a street sign, which I expected to see on streets. And did. I didn't expect a stop sign to suddenly stick out of a vehicle!

Anyway, I learned that lesson, and since passed the test, which consisted of driving round the block and then driving into a parking space.

How was 4th of July down there?

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Ellie - Duly noted. I'll add that to the insanely long list of Things to Remember When Driving in America. How's Spain on the driving front, anyway?

AFC - We saw something similar here too. Plus they seem to converge in the middle of interstates for a chit chat. Very odd.

Soupy - Yeah, driving is natural after a while, but here, it's like the minute I relax into it I remember that at any moment I could go onto the wrong side of the road. Its scary.

Unbearable - I knew America was nuts, but I was hoping Hollywood had a lot to answer for in regards to exagerrating stuff. Not so much!

Anon - All I can say to that is, I know EXACTLY what you mean.

Londonlass - Oh, not serious arguing. The sort of arguing that's over and forgotten the minute you get to your destination. Thank god. Or this post wouldn't have been about the problems with driving! haha.

Z Step - Barbarians / British, same difference.

James - I haven't encountered a stop sign on a school bus, but at least now I know what to do when the time comes. I've just written about the 4th July, it was a slightly strange day, but a very nice evening.

Ellie said...

Fuck. I don't drive!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Sensible girl.

Lapa said...

very nice adventure...


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