When I moved to the USA, one of the things I was most worried about was driving on the opposite side of the road. You don’t realize how much your brain is programed to look a certain way when you take a turn or cross a road until you are handed the keys to a car where the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the vehicle!
I truly thought there would be ample public transport and I would have no need for a car. How wrong was I!? Once I got my drivers license set up, I rushed to Carmax to buy my first car. I was so excited to have freedom again, after depending on everyone else for months. After signing the papers and getting the key, I walked to the car and got in the passenger side. This is something I still do, until I realize the steering wheel is in front of the other seat! “Ooops, let’s try that again shall we?” I said to myself, realizing I looked very silly. I started the car and off I drove!
Now most people would opt for a more popular color i.e. black, white or silver. Not I! I wanted something bright and eye catching, so that everyone could see me coming!!!! BRIGHT GREEN! I’m not sure who should have been more terrified of the fact I was in control of a vehicle, other motorists or myself!? I found myself chanting the same mantra during every journey, “Keep them on the left..” which just meant to make sure the median or other traffic were always on my left hand side. The amount of times I took a left hand turn and ended up facing oncoming traffic was terrible. Months went by and I was successfully navigating my way to my frequented destinations. As long as there wasn’t a diversion I was pretty comfortable getting to the grocery store, work or the mall.
Now I think I am a pretty good driver. My road awareness is pretty sharp, however my road rage is stereo-typically British. Unfortunately my version of verbal road abuse doesn’t really have the same effect here as it does back home. I remember a few years ago I called a crazy lady who cut me up 6 times on the main road into Charlotte a “complete tosser!”. Now If I had said that to someone back home, they’d have been offended. Here? Not even a flinch. Let’s be fair, we don’t really cut many people up on the roads back home, because half of them are too narrow to get one car down, let alone two! Regardless, calling someone an “Absolute W*nker” or any other fantastic British insult would certainly cause another driver to reconsider their driving actions. Not here…. it is ignored and repeated.
Driving on the highway is terrifying for a first timer. You better be sure you know exactly what exit you are taking and have had a lot of experience playing Tetris as a kid. As you merge off right to exit (opposite to the UK) , you better be ready! The exit is typically about 20 ft after the entrance onto the highway. So as you merge off, you are weaving in and out of cars merging on at high speeds. There is no move over rule or give space, it’s all a game of who can whip in first and who can fit in where. Typically I take an immodium before any long highway journey. Every time I have to get off the highway on to another, it’s a game of touching cloth.
If you are not familiar with the British term of “touching cloth” I have included an educational link. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=touching%20cloth
I think I have mastered driving on the right side of the road. Seven years in and I am still going well. I will admit, I have converted my GPS to a British accent. I was getting fed up of being told to turn right at the circle. It’s a roundabout!!!! It may be circular but it is definitely called a roundabout. I feel however, these are a newcomer to American roads because I am yet to meet someone who knows how to use them. Blinkers are a thing of the past! It’s another guessing game as to which direction someone is taking! No wonder it’s not uncommon to see a car driving down the road without a hood or bumper. Years of playing Diddy Kong racing prepared me for the American roads!!!
There are some positives to driving in America. Gas station snacks are pretty interesting, you would never pick up a quart size cup of boiled peanuts or a pretty decent BBQ sandwich at a BP back home! Now, I have not been back home in seven years, the pandemic did not help with that but I am embarrassed to admit, I am a little worried about getting back there and renting a car! It’s taken my brain years to reprogram, I can only imagine the havoc I am going to cause pulling out of London Heathrow onto the M25! But at least I’ll understand the insults!