Driving On the Right Side of the Road

Soon after the dinner party, we woke one morning to discover that V had slipped an envelope through the mail slot in our front door (no mailboxes in England, folks, just holes in your door).

“Thank you for joining us last evening for dinner. Here are the car keys. Have fun!”

We looked at each other, eyes wide.

“You’re driving,” Maile said.

* * * * *

We walked to the garage. For the first time in my life I found myself hoping it was a piece of crap automobile. Please, nothing that would match the rest of their possessions, I muttered under my breath. I didn’t want to start off my time in a new country by wrecking a Jaguar convertible or a Bugatti Veyron.

Blessing of all blessings, it was a 1995 (or thereabouts) Peugeot (yes, the little white car at the bottom).

It’s very strange, shifting with your left hand, making left turns on red, passing people on the right. We decided our first trip should be short, perhaps to the train station, so we drove to Great Missenden. All but the main roads are narrow, and I found myself hitting the ditch whenever an oncoming car approached. Once I got more skilled I would just cringe and close my eyes.

* * * * *

Weeks later, after we had purchased our own car, we made a left hand turn out of the lane, headed into the back roads of Buckinghamshire to explore some of the local villages. At one point I came cruising around a corner to find someone approaching on my side of the road!

I slammed on the breaks. He slammed on his breaks. We squealed to a halt mere feet from one another’s front bumpers, all of my stuff having flown forward on to the floor. Maile sat in the passenger seat, frozen in place, eyes wide open, as if the very specter of death had just walked out on to the road and waved a kind hello.

For one angry second I found myself thinking, “What is that idiot doing?” But in the seconds that followed, I sheepishly realized I was driving on the wrong, er, the right, side of the road.

* * * * *

“If we survive our time here,” Maile said, her voice shaking as we drove away, “we will have to consider ourselves very, very fortunate.”

* * * * *

(to read the first installment about my life in England, click HERE)

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