While I’ve been to 27 different countries, I’ve never had the pleasure of learning to drive on the left hand side of the road. I usually use public transport or employ a driver. But here I am in Australia, where there is no shortage of land. I needed to get to Phillip Island, about two hours outside of Melbourne, where I planned to spend a weekend on the rural coast.
I started driving when I was 12, am adept at using manual transmissions, so I didn’t even think twice about it…Hmmmm, mistake number one. To start, I went to the wrong side of the car to open the door. However, the funniest bit was my attempt to get out of the Avis car park (Aussie speak for parking garage).
After I finally got in the right door, I settled a few minutes, checked my mirrors, moved the seat, all the normal things you do when you get into a rental car. I was sorted out and ready to go but I hiccupped a few times trying to remember to stay on the left hand side of the tightly parked garage. I was doing okay, though. That is, until I met another car. I tried to turn on my blinker and hit the windshield wipers. Then I couldn’t get the wipers off and instead they started going faster. About that same time I realized I was too much in the middle of the path so the other car couldn’t get around me.
I decided I should be courteous, forget about the wipers and just get out of the way. Unfortunately, I looked up and realized the other driver was an impossibly hot guy in an Audi laughing at me. Completely flustered, I managed to get over enough to give way to him. With my wipers still running on full speed, he pulled up beside me and rolled his window down. Mortified, I rolled mine down as well. Mr. Hot Audi said, “Hey, no worries, you’re doing great, just go slow!” Oof – utter embarrassment.
All in all it turned out okay. I made it to Phillip Island without incident and only two hours of white knuckled granny driving as proof of my challenge.
If you’re driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time, I recommend the following:
-Try to always go to the right side of the car to get in because it’s rather embarrassing if you don’t. Several times I had to pretend I meant to go to the passenger side and put my purse on the seat.
– Anytime you turn right or left, pause for another second. Make sure you’re going into the correct lane and not just following your instinct.
– While your wipers will surely get a work out since they’re on the side you’re used to using for blinkers, just try to think about it every time you need to signal.
– When unsure, I just told myself, “stay to the left, stay to the left”
– Remember the fast lanes are opposite from what you’re used to.
– Look in your mirrors, all of them.
– Do get GPS.
– Finally, and most importantly, don’t make eye contact with hot guys in Audis – especially if you’re in a Camry.