....and a few locals as well, my first few months driving here!
To understand the crazy part, you have to know where I was coming from driving wise.
In the UK I had 2 cars, I know very greedy and not at all eco-friendly! But I had reached the heady position at work where I had a Renault Scenic company supported car, a reasonably economical, comfortable motorway (freeway) friendly, multi-airbag car. It was great for fighting through the 112 mile journey to and from work, on one of the busiest sections of road in Europe.
I loved the fact I sat slightly higher in it and could see at least 6 cars ahead, vital when you're going from 85mph to 10mph every few minutes with no warning! Also comfortable on the usual journey of 2 hours a day, but great when that was extended to 3-5 hours a day dependant on some numbskull deciding today was their day to crash!
Then I had my fun, girly, glamourous, 'tart' car! A beautiful convertible silver Mazda MX-5 (Miata), with all the add-ons. Like the super-cool hard-top (I sold for a fortune separately on eBay before I left), chrome rollbar and glass screen that kept my hair perfect as I whizzed along sans roof. I loved that car, it was just so me and I hated to have to sell it, but it's not a practical car out here, especially as it would fit right under most Pickups!
I drove alot everyday in the UK and had done so for 21 years before coming here. At one point I was a Sales Manager covering a 1000 miles a month in heavy traffic around London and so I considered myself a pretty good, experienced driver.
Then I moved to Oklahoma and everything was turned on it's head!
I now drive a slightly retro Chevy Silverado Red Pickup and it's a lot of fun, plus entirely practical for my new life. And it's probably just as well it's bright red, as to say I was confused alot those first few weeks would be an understatement!
Not only are you on the wrong side of the road here, but you are also on the wrong side of the car. Plus both our Pickups are automatic and the lever thingy (I forgot the technical name) is on the steering wheel, not in the centre near the floor!
Lucky I live in a VERY smalltown! For the first few weeks I stayed within a 10 mile radius of home and concentrated on just staying on the right side of the road. And let me tell you, that was quite a challenge right there!
For once I was actually wishing for some traffic, ANY traffic to help me out. After all when you turn onto a road and the cars are in the right lane, it's harder to get that wrong and not hit something. But around here you often turn out and the road is completely empty for a few minutes. So if you were me, you just reverted to what you knew and sailed forth on the wrong side of the highway!
I gave a few locals a surprise they were not expecting those first few weeks. One day I approached our town rail crossing on the wrong side, only to meet a wide-eyed little old lady on the tracks, head-on! Another day I reversed out of a spot in front of the bank and happily drove the length of Main St on the wrong side, thinking how friendly the waving locals were to the new girl in town!
But by far my finest hour was when I left the Post Office and drove up Main St on the wrong side, until I suddenly realised I was about to have a head-on with our frantically gesticulating Deputy Sheriff. I swerved, missed him and he just waved me on with a big grin; he's still one of my favourite people around here!
So a bit of traffic would have been pretty handy as I tried to adjust.
When I wasn't driving I was forever walking to the wrong side of vehicles and trying to get in the drivers side. One day a friend picked me up and I just happily walked over and opened her door, to be met with "Oh! Are you driving us then?" LOL!
After a month I ventured to the 'big town' and had to deal with 4 way stops, the place where we would stick a roundabout in the UK. I have to admit I have sailed obliviously through a few here in my time and got really lucky no cars or cops were around. I am now at the point where I know their location locally, but elsewhere I have to concentrate alot harder so as not to miss one. I am sorry, but a roundabout in your way is just a whole lot easier to spot!
In July of 2006 I finally took my State Driving Test and passed first time, despite completely making a mess of parallel parking, something I had done pretty well everyday for 21 years in the UK! But around here there are very few chances to parallel park as you usually just pull into spaces and a Pickup is alot bigger than a car.
When I got back to my town I stopped in at our Quick Stop, where unsurprisingly as it was lunchtime, I found our local police force. I ran in waving my Oklahoma Drivers License and was met by a cheer and sighs of relief all round. I sat down and had a good laugh with them over the debacle of my previous 9 months driving. I also thanked them for not issuing me with any tickets or even pulling me over. They said they were just glad I was in such a highly visible vehicle and they'd figured I'd eventually get the hang of it! Somehow I don't think I'd have been so lucky in a bigger town, but then I'd have had some traffic to help me get it right!
It's still not entirely natural for me; I often have to peer at the dash to make sure I have hit 'reverse' with the shift, whenever I am driving a Brit' visitor and we're chatting I invariably end up on the wrong side of the street. I am pretty lucky I don't have a speeding ticket yet, I can rapidly revert to a Brit' with road rage if provoked and the Hubster still has to send me back to the passenger side pretty regularly!
What's going to be really interesting is the first time I drive back in the UK, one wrong move there and someone WILL hit me!