Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Aaargh! I thought it would be bad but I didn't think it would be this bad!

They taught me to separate my hazards when driving in order to avoid accidents. So currently I have a lot of hazards.
1) I haven't driven for 4 1/2 years
2) The cars are the wrong way round now
3) The streets are the wrong way round now

There are more but those are the main ones. So what I did was I found a driving school with a simulator, and asked for a re-orientation course. They have a refresher course which fitted the bill fine; 4 x 1/2 hour sessions in the simulator, 90 minutes practical in a car and a theory book.

So I had my first simulator session on Friday. Not knowing how it works or anything, I hadn't thought about what I wanted to do other than get the hang of driving again, and on the right hand side of the road.

Well. Um. She put together some left and right turn scenarios with traffic to get me going. This can be very cute, they have pedestrians and everything. They don't actually cross the road, they stand on the corners. And no cyclists either.

I was very glad to be in a simulator and not in a real car. I kept reaching for the gearshift with my left hand. It's on the right, of course. I did really weird things like going around the corners with the clutch in. I banged onto the pavement a couple of times, but luckily I didn't kill any sims.

Anyway, after the weekend and a weird dream about driving (I got my old Golf back, the one I had in South Africa and thought I would see if driving a left hand drive car would be easier even though the streets are the other way around. I took a shortcut through a patch of grass and ended up in a canal which was well hidden by grass. I got the car out easily enough, and onto the road, but they were all one way streets against me. Then I woke up.) I actually put together a program which I tried yesterday.

First, I did the simple clutching and declutching exercises that all the beginners do. Then you drive on a straight road, starting at 30 and going up to 80. I failed this, because I was sailing along at 80 when the sim instructed me to drive at 30. So I braked, of course, instead of slowing down and moving backwards through the gears which is what they expected me to do.

Then I did simple left turns and right turns without traffic. Or pedestrians.

Then I did the turns with light traffic. This worked much better than on the first day now that I had done all the deliberate orientation stuff.

And then... then... then I did the multiple lane roundabout. They are common here. Anyway, I started with no traffic to get the hang of how they work.

So I felt much better after that and now have a good idea of how an orientation course should be structured. I've booked an extra sim session (2x 1/2 hour slots, but they always give you an hour) for when I get back from holiday, and then with luck I will feel ready to step into a car again.