Friday, September 12, 2008

No Driving

Two of my friends on the same day, separately, asked me in their emails the same question, “How is your driving?” It made me sighed.

I grew up in Moscow where a car was such an unthinkable luxury that the thought of having one had never crossed my mind. We had a reliable public transportation, the most beautiful metro in the world, what else do you need?

Then I relocated to Arizona, where a car is a necessity, everybody drives, and it is rare to see a walking person. To my amazement all that it took to get a driving license was 10 hours of lessons and several hours of learning the rules. Did it give me any confidence to drive on my own? Nope, of course not, but officially I was ready. Little by little I started to venture out of our neighborhood but never went further than the local library or the grocery store.

When we came to Croatia, I was determined to really learn how to drive. I spent about a day calling different driving schools only to find out that there weren’t any training cars with automatic transmission available, more worrisome - there weren’t many instructors who spoke English. Finally, I found a person who was willing to take a chance “with this crazy foreigner who already had her driving license but still insisted on lessons”. These lessons that I took for more than a month were great – I felt a growing confidence, learnt the streets of Zagreb, practiced my Croatian, learnt some German (Miro, the instructor, didn’t know a lot of English) and mastered the stick shift that horrified me at first. When our car with automatic transmission arrived, it was a piece of cake to switch to it. During those two years in Croatia, I drove almost every day and was getting pretty comfortable with being behind the wheels. There were minor injuries to the car of course, mostly from backing out of our narrow slanted garage space and attempts on parallel parking, but the car survived as well as its driver.

Three years in Beijing went without a car and without driving. I wanted to drive there, I missed it. It wasn’t even a matter of convenience or independence but the appeal of the traffic, the desire to build up the skills that I started to accumulate.

Strangely in Iceland, where the traffic is much milder than in China, I felt a tight knot in my stomach every time I thought of driving. I did practice, but somehow there wasn’t enough motivation to do it regularly. By now, familiar with the bus route, which very conveniently goes close to our house, I don’t feel a need to drive. In a place where I can easily reach everything either by foot or by bus, why really?

So, driving will be some other place, some other time.

1 comment:

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