Q. What is it like to drive on the left-hand side of the road?
A. I hate cars. Everything about them. I couldn’t even tell you what colour car my Da drives. It may be a dark one. (?)
Driving is something I reluctantly learned 2 months after moving to the US. Since abandoning my car 2 years ago I have been happily unlearning.
What is it like to drive on the left-hand side of the road? Well I can tell you what it’s like to cycle on the left-hand side, but driving on that side is something I’ve only ever done once. And nothing happens in a vacuum. Here is that context.
Too fast and too convenient. That’s how you find air travel. Granted surface travel over an ocean and half a continent can be impractical, but sitting in the limbo that is an unfamiliar airport for an hour and a half, before the final leg from the midwest, helps slow down the change from one place to another.
Days later you are tired after a wedding in Carlow, but you don’t care because walking in the rain from the pub to the cathedral was such an Irish experience.
As was walking aimlessly around the castle grounds in the ungodly hours of the morning hoping to find your B&B merely from a faint drunken memory of 2 years earlier. And of course that you found it, while clutching the key with the only clue you had: “Room 2″. Excellent clue inside the B&B. Not so useful around the rest of the county.
-Can I have a taxi please?
-Where are you going?
Racing through a restorative breakfast and returning to the castle for a lift to the Dublin road, where your Da was faithfully waiting, set the tone for the weekend.
How you have missed sausages. An hour on the road and then you had an hour and a half for stew with all the family and packing. Your 3rd stew in 4 days. Then the car and the traffic that is Dublin and you were late for a RyanAir flight to Liverpool. But you always are and you always make it. And you did.
And your friend met you and you had your 3rd meal of the day in your 3rd town. Lots of tea. The caressing of a football in the back garden while your friend smoked and you found yourself having a quiet 5 or 6 pints before bed. But there was no time for bed for you had to travel across Liverpool at half-three in the morning. Living in America means you steal what minutes you can with people you may not see for years.
The Everton game was perfect. As an example of what your friends and cousins are having to endure. A couple of quiet and quality Liverpool pubs and a visit to the chipper and you find it’s 4 in the morning once again. You go to sleep knowing the morning will bring the first time for you to ever drive on the left-hand side of the road.
You got up at 6. Chatted nervously. Took a taxi to the airport. Picked up the rental car. A funny-shaped Merc thing. You sat still for 10 minutes. Finally you drove it briefly. It beeped. You stopped driving. You sat still for 10 more minutes. You breathed deeply. You pressed a few buttons.
You pulled a few levers. And you drove. You turned the radio off. Or rather down since you couldn’t find the off button. You drove in silence for hours. On the left-hand side of the road for 200-odd miles. Scary, exciting, shameful and heartbreaking. You love trains.
And from memory, without maps and without stopping, you found your destination in the south of England. You parked. You drank wine for 12 hours. You slept on your 3rd settee in 3 days. For 3 hours this time. For you had an airplane to catch.
So you drove again. In the worst of rain that England can offer. To Gatwick in the rush hour. You took a wrong turn. On the M25. Significant. You were late. But you made it. And you lived. And you found a petrol station for the car, and indeed where to leave the car. And where to leave England itself.
You were tired. Ah well, you could sleep on the flight. You didn’t though. Not a wink. You saw Greenland as you went over the southern tip. You didn’t see any cars. You fell in love with Greenland. You often fall in love from 35′000 feet and up. Too fast though.