Monday, July 09, 2007

Exploring the Mysteries of the 3-Point Turn

I have learned how to drive on the wrong side of the road. It still feels a bit awkward some times, but I no longer make errors. However, due to the vagaries of the bureaucracy in a more Euro-centric UK, I can no longer simply exchange my US license for a UK one. That would not seem irritating except that the only provision for licenses other than ones you simply exchange are for non drivers, particularly 17 year olds.

That oversight sets up the paradox that I could drive here legally with my US license for at least a year, but the minute that I got my Provisional License, the first rung on the ladder to becoming a fully licensed UK driver, I could no longer drive solo. I have been riding with husband or friends or colleagues in tow. When that was not feasible, I have resorted to my bike and walking and a quixotic schedule of buses.

I am also taking driving lessons. Why am I taking driving lessons if I can drive? Well, first of all to learn the proper British way of doing things--do not cross over your hands on the steering wheel. Do not shift down through the gears to slow your car down. Do not signal if there is no one to see your signal unless you are at an intersection in which case you signal regardless of whether anyone can see--a bit like Plato's tree in the woods, I think. Oh, and make sure you are checking your mirrors every 10-15 seconds and that you are "covering your clutch"--keeping your foot poised on it but without putting any weight on it. All those years of my brother telling me to keep my foot away from the clutch are hard to break, especially since my brother would frequently rap me on my head if my foot got as close as that.

The piece de resistance of the driving test, however, is the three-point turn or, in the coded message I have been told the examiner will give me, "Park here. Turn the car so that it is facing in the other direction." Without the insights from my instructor I would not have known that I must proceed using only the clutch to advance at a crawling speed--"not a walking speed" my instructor emphasizes, "a crawling speed." I must steer only when the car is moving-crawling-- along and of course I do not signal.

Today in my lesson I got two "goods" written into my book for my TIRs--turn in the road. I have made a lot of 'K' turns, as Americans call them, in my many years as a driver. I don't recall crawling with any of them. I also struggle to know exactly when I will use this skill. Even my instructor conceded that the reason for including this was hard for him to understand, but as in so many things, he is teaching to the test, which is the other reason that I am taking lessons. I want to pass the practical exam.

Just to put the lie to the notion that there is no merit in practicing these TIRs, however, I had the pleasure of executing a supremely fine example with the ride-on mower in the garage. I urged it forward at a crawl, turned the steering wheel to its fullest, carefully checked around me, and began reversing and steering. She responded with all the grace of a wide-bodied, slow moving tortoise but she flirted up to the garbage can without touching, rolled to the edge of the paint can without even a slight touch and then out onto the patio-like area known here as the close and up the sagging plywood ramp into the former tennis lawn. Now if only I could figure out how to lower the blades, I could actually do something with all that skill and knowledge.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger scorrie said...

nice to see that driving lessons are worthy of a men tion //

At 2:49 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

too funny! Love your descriptions.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hayden, by the time I can find my way to laugh about something I have usually found the way out of a box. I am glad you got a chuckle,too.


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