Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Old Dog, New Driving Tricks



After fifty years of driving, everything has changed.  I am now sitting in the passenger seat to drive the car, driving on the "other side" of the road, turning left to actually go right...it makes a guy want to just stay home and drink wine.  It seems just as strange for Colleen as a passenger because she sits where the driver would normally sit if driving in the USA.  We still frequently walk to the wrong side of the vehicle before we realize it.  We also glance at other cars, and just for a second, wonder where the driver is!


The challenges of driving in New Zealand are plenty.  Most of the neighborhood roads in our village are narrow - about the width of three cars. On some streets parking is allowed on both sides creating a need for quick maneuvering to avoid the oncoming car.  The Kiwi's are generally quite courteous though in giving way to the car that arrives at the bottleneck first. Usually. Sometimes it's sort of a gentleman's game of chicken! We're used to roundabouts, but here we really have to think about which direction we're headed.  When you approach one to make a right turn you first turn on your right signal but you actually go left as the roundabout traffic travels in a clockwise direction.


Figuring out the rules of the road pertaining to bicyclists and pedestrians initially involved a lot of surmising - much of which turned out to be totally inaccurate!  For instance, I told Colleen that the broken yellow line about a foot away from the curb (kerb for Kiwis) was a lane for bicyclists. (She didn't even bother to hide the eye roll...)  Turns out it means parking is prohibited. Then there are the crosswalks.  There are lines painted on the road at intersections which we thought were for crossing...wrong. Pedestrian walkways are marked by a sign with a big, bright orange circle.  Who knew? And, heaven help us if we forget to look right before we step off of the curb!  Although, we've noticed a few places  where the words "LOOK RIGHT" are boldly painted on the asphalt...wonder who that's for?

Of course the most challenging part of driving is actually not driving at all - it's filling up the car with gasoline and not fainting...a liter of unleaded is a whopping $2.20 NZD.  Even us metrically challenged Americans know that is about $7.20 per gallon US!  We just gulp and promise ourselves that we will never whine again when we buy gas in the states.