When my Darling Husband moved to the States to marry me, we had a singularly crappy old car with a manual transmission. I’d never driven one before, and practicing with my mom was so hilariously horrific we had to stop the car regularly because we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. So the DH stepped up as our primary driver.
But all his driving experience was in New Zealand, where everything is flipped. Driver’s seat on the right, gear shift on the left, windshield wipers where the turn signal would be. I’d laugh when he walked to the passenger seat with the keys. I’d laugh when he’d clean the windshield while changing lanes. But when he went to shift gears, and he let muscle memory do the work, he’d bang his hand loudly against the door panel to his left. I wouldn’t laugh. I’d say, “We are all going to die.”
I came to New Zealand knowing I’d have to retrain myself like he did so long ago, and that I would probably scare the hell out of myself and everyone else while I did. I’m not like my dad, who picked up the rental car at Heathrow and drove us out of the parking lot like it was no big deal.
The strangest thing was that the driver’s license people didn’t think it was a big deal either. I walked into the office, they looked at my Minnesota license, and gave me a New Zealand one on the spot. No written exam, no driving test. Just “here you go!”
This is baffling. I wouldn’t have given me a license at that point.
I’m getting the hang of it now. I’m not wracked with anxiety when I need to drive somewhere anymore. I’m entirely dependent on Google Maps for getting around, but I was when I drove in Minneapolis, too. I get honked at sometimes for being too cautious or forgetting I have right of way. But it’s not too bad. Keep your shoulder on the center line, and follow other people.
And when I turn on my windshield wipers, I get to laugh at myself now.