Crash course

I just finished my first driving lesson. Well, not strictly my first, but the last time I drove a car was 15 years ago, in England, and it had manual transmission. It seems like a lifetime ago now.

I’ve been in the US long enough that driving on the right wasn’t a problem. In fact, it seems natural. What didn’t seem quite so natural is that the sticks to control the indicators and lights are reversed—but the brake and accelerator aren’t.

As we pulled away for the first time, Somerville’s finest chose that precise moment to drive past our house. It was an omen. Twenty minutes later I was approaching one of those three lane New England junctions with all the roads at weird angles, when I heard sirens and saw that an EMS vehicle was approaching from behind. Naturally the woman in the right lane didn’t want to let me pull right, and pushed ahead into the space in front of her. Accelerating into the junction seemed like a bad move. I did my best to get over to the right as the instructor pushed the horn, and the ambulance got by once the guy in the left lane worked out what was going on.

I also learned that SUV drivers really are the massive assholes everyone says they are, and can’t be relied on to yield right of way at a four way stop even if you clearly got there first.

I give thanks to Charles Kettering, inventor of automatic transmission. I’m sure I’ll get used to only driving with one foot. Still, I can’t help wondering if teaching mathew to drive isn’t like teaching a squirrel to waterski—sure, you can do it, but some creatures aren’t suited to some forms of transport.