Monday, March 8, 2010


I miss driving.  When I go home for visits, I always make sure I get a chance to drive - even if it's just to the library or mall, as I miss that freedom of being able to go where you want, when you want, without having to wait and then crowd onto public transportation.  However, I have no desire to drive in the UK.  This may be due to the fact that I cannot drive stick (which John never misses the chance to chide me about:  "So essentially, you drive a go-kart.") but perhaps more so due to the fact that I can't seem to get my head around roundabouts and the narrow streets of England.  Although John's extremely skilled in the driver's seat, I nevertheless resort to gasps as a rogue taxi driver misses us by millimeters or my other favorite option, putting my hands over my eyes.

Driving in London is especially dire, like driving in any other big city.  However, it's often useful if you want to be able to get-up-and-go for weekend trips into the country or big grocery shopping excursions.  And on one, dark and rainy October night when I got into Chris's car, which we were borrowing for a weekend trip to Rye, John handed me a thick road map with the title, "ATLAS OF BRITAIN" and said, nonchalantly, "Unfortunately I don't have the Tom Tom, so you'll have to direct me."  Um, ok.  I flipped to page one.  Wales.  Ok ... wrong country ... I squinted at the following page.  It looked kind of like England in the dark, but said "Isle of Wight."  Maybe that's England's formal name and "England" is just a nickname.  John broke me out of my reverie: "You might want to consult that London A-Z until we get out onto the major motorway," he said, pointing at the glove compartment.  I took out the spiral bound map and looked around at our surroundings.  "Ok, so we're on Vauxhall Bridge Road."  I tried to locate it with my finger on the map, barely able to see in the dark.  "I'm coming up to a light now, should I turn?" John asked.  And that's where I made my first mistake:  I pretended I knew where we were.  "Yes," I said confidently.

Twenty minutes later ...

We had pulled over to the side of the road, somewhere near Lambeth or Elephant and Castle, I don't remember which.  I was on the verge of hysteria and John was faring no better.  We had been around the same roundabout probably three times already.   "Ok," John said, switching on the overhead light.  "We're here," he pointed to a squiggly line.  "And we need to get to the M20, here," he said, pointing to a different squiggly line.  I nodded tearfully.  "So it's fine, you just need to get me on the A23."  I nodded again.  "Ok?" he asked, as he started the car.  "Ok, so we're on Horseferry Road now," I said.  "Don't tell me the name of the street, tell me the A-road," he said.  "Ok, it's A3212," I said. "Now we need to turn at Kennington Road," I said, tracing the path with my finger.  "I need the A-road," he said, through gritted teeth. "Oh yeah, sorry.  It's A23."

We made it in the end, about an hour late.  The journey back was much better.  I successfully directed us all the way back to Chris's garage from Rye.  But the trip only cemented the fact that I never, ever, want to drive in the UK.


  1. Maybe you would let me give you some lessons as to the best way to drive in London? (Could also through in some useful instruction in musical theory - a la UK?)

  2. Thank you ever so much for the kind offer Chris - I have a sinking feeling, however, that you'd rather throw yourself out of the car should I drive you anywhere in this country. I can see myself hitting a whole row of parked cars already. Perhaps someday I'll try ... music theory UK-style very welcomed, however.


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