It wasn’t all that hard, really. I was very nervous when leaving the parking lot at the airport because there was too much to absorb at once: driving on the other side of the road, from the other side of the car, not knowing the roads themselves or where they were taking us, and driving a nice little Fiat which obviously handles quite differently from my 4Runner. A lot to take in.
I had my trusty side-kick and expert navigator Kyle at my (left) side, though, and off we went. One of the things I had done to prepare for the trip was to get on the Auto Association web pages in the UK and get printed directions as to how to get where we wanted to go…and thank goodness I did. Having them gave Kyle enough time to be ready for the dreaded round-a-bouts.
I had driven a few round-a-bouts in the US but not with five or six lanes of traffic moving in the direction opposite of what I am used to and full speed on. We let out a cheer every time we got through one…and they are all over the place! Kyle’s job was to tell me “third one” or whatever number of spokes I was to count before getting off. Some round-a-bouts have six choices, and one’s choice has everything to do with which lane one starts out in. When we were heading up near Dundee, Kyle, in a very calm and serious voice, said, “Now, Mom, don’t get nervous….but there’s a double round-a-bout coming up.” We whooped it up loudly when we got through that one. I felt so thoroughly accomplished.
The highways were easy to deal with, I just stayed way to the right and kept up the pace. I got a reflexive response to move to the right for the first part of the trip from the airport to the wonderful town of Largs on the West coast, but only on the smaller unmarked roads. I also would slip back in to habit just as we started off each time, and so before I started the car, we took to looking at each other and saying our driving mantra: Look right, stay left.
We had a riduculously fun, Three Stooges kind of time each time we got in the car. We’d naturally reach for seatbelts; no, it’s not on my left. Kyle and I took to shaking hands or doodling our fingers at each other a la Moe and Curly as we found ourselves flailing in the air over our shoulders. I would constantly bang my knuckles on the inside of the car door as I reached for the gear shift with my right hand. Another part of the comedy routine. Thank God the brake and the gas pedals were not switched.
When I started teaching Kyle how to drive, I would have him reach over and move the gear shift for me so he would get the feel for it. I called upon this car-choreography that we had developed and had him reach over and do the shifting if traffic were heavy in the round-a-bouts, freeing my hand to work the flashers. Why they didn’t switch sides for the other controls in the car was a mystery, but the way it was, it was difficult to co-ordinate it all (when my body wanted to be doing it the other way ’round anyway).
Driving “opposite” was a significant test to my concentration and my body mechanics habits, but in a day or so I was very comfortable with it and felt very much at ease.
A few months after Kyle and I returned to Boulder after our trip to Scotland, I was driving down a side street, and a woman pulled out and in to my (right side) lane of traffic. I recognized the look of shock on her face as the same one I had had on my face a few times while driving in Scotland, and since our car windows were open, I laughed and called out to her “Been there, done that…on the opposite side of the road!!”