« Children of the Sky
Wrong side
I recently went on vacation to the wrong side of the world, where they made me drive on the wrong side of the road. Amongst other things this was an interesting cognitive experiment, in which I learned things like:
  • New Zealanders really like their hot-rod Subarus. I saw more blatting, body-kitted WRXs and STIs there even than in the Bay Area.
  • Shifting a manual transmission with my left hand instead of my right was surprisingly intuitive. Perhaps even an improvement on the cars I'm used to. I adapted to it within a few minutes and never thought about it again.
  • Driving in the left lane was completely unintuitive and also terrifying. I did eventually get used to the highways, but every intersection was frightening. I turned into the oncoming traffic lane only once, but I almost did it about 50 times.
  • Due to (I assume) the exorbitant cost of yellow paint in the Southern hemisphere, all of the lines on the road are white and dashed, regardless of their meaning. This led me to a strategy of cowering at the far left edge of the road at all times.
  • In our right-hand-drive car, the steering column stalks were flipped--- the turn signal is on the right and the windshield sprayer etc is on the left. As a result, I found myself wiping furiously at people to let them know that I was coming into their lane. I did not ever get used to this.
  • Unfortunately, it also rained while I was in New Zealand, which caused me to sometimes signal for the rain to get off of the windshield. (This was not effective.)
  • I almost got us T-boned about 3 times. I eventually decided that pulling out into traffic is done most safely by assuming that cars can come from all directions.
  • I don't recall using the rear view mirror pretty much at all. I mean, what's it doing over there on my left?
  • It's briefly shocking to get into the driver's seat and then not find any steering wheel. I only did this once.
  • My passenger reported several temptations to actuate the emergency brake, since from his perspective it's exactly where it should be, were he driving.
  • While going around one of New Zealand's many round-a-bouts, I noticed, as I exited, a white arrow painted on my lane pointed straight back at the car. In retrospect this was a good indication that I had gone backwards around a traffic circle. I only did this once that I noticed.
  • Upon driving my own car when I got home, I only twice thwapped my left hand against the driver's door expecting to find the shifter. This confusion wore off quickly.
  • However, I do still sometimes wipe at people as I change lanes. I am hoping this will wear off in the coming years.
I hope you can learn something from my experience, like: take more taxis.
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