Do you remember what it felt like when you were first learning how to drive? The excitement, the fear of hitting anything and everything, the power, the fear of killing yourself and others, the independence, the fear of people honking and yelling at you, the deep down feeling like you could get lost and never be able to find your way home, the fear of ........you get my point. Take all those emotions, cross out all those that don't involve fear and getting lost, and you will understand what it feels like to drive in Ireland. I thought my biggest problem would be driving on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. But, I soon learned that this country allows for so many more problems than that.
Take into consideration if you will, the following dilemmas:
Fact #1: Lines dividing the lanes of traffic are only suggestions in which you (or anyone else for that matter) may or may not choose to follow at any time during your outing without warning. These include the yellow lines dividing the opposite flow of traffic, which of course, are not yellow here because........ it doesn't matter what side of the road you drive on. In fact, the middle of the road is a coveted piece of pavement.
Fact #2: There seems to be no speed limits on surface streets.
Fact #3: Lanes tend to disappear right before your eyes. Have you ever driven on the freeway when a traffic lane is closed? You know how they set up cones for like a mile, slowly diverting you into the next lane? Forget that! No cones, no warning.....except for maybe the parked car in which you are about to hit (because you have no way of stopping in time) because you don't have time to watch your speed......see fact #1and #2.
Fact #4: Roads are as small as they appear. Take a road, any road where you live, double the amount of traffic lanes, add bus and bicycle lanes in both directions, allow street parking, and you've got yourself the typical road in Ireland.
Fact #5: Your GPS is not always your savior. Watch out, or that little woman will have you turning down a one-way street! Basically, if you miss your turn, you better figure out how to make a u-turn cuz there's no way back. It's extremely difficult to find a street where you can make a left or right turn in downtown Dublin. I'm not sure why. But, if you need to turn, chances are you're out of luck!
Fact #6: Intersections are not square. They can be hexagons, octagons, circles, Y's, X's, you name it. This can make it very difficult to see where oncoming traffic is coming from or which traffic light (if you can see one) you are supposed to follow.....I've only run one red light! I tend to be conservative here, believing that anyone can crash into my car at any moment.....hence the honking, white knuckles, holding of the breath, and flinching (and that's just when Jeremy is driving!).
Fact #7: The order is not always green, yellow, red. Sometimes, it's red, yellow, green. Throw in a random blinking yellow light occasionally just for fun.
I don't mind telling you that this is not an all inclusive list. But, I'm sure by now you get the picture. I don't think I'll ever get used to driving here. I always thought I was a pretty crazy driver....safe, but crazy. Here, there's only crazy.....and soiled underwear.
Yesterday, I spent almost the entire day lost. I had to drop Jeremy off at work in an area I had never been. Then, I tried to make my way to our new church. It was very confusing. I never made it to the church and I barely made it home.
After a brief rest, I decided to head out to the grocery store. It would have been nice to know they didn't accept credit cards. No signs or warnings. Oh, except when you get up to the register, have bagged all your groceries (cuz they don't do that for you. Nor do they provide the bags to put them in), and try handing your credit card to the cashier. "Uh, sorry, this is not a Laser card"...."Oh yes, I'm sorry, it's a swipe card, it doesn't have a chip in it"..... "Uh, huh. No, we only take Laser cards here"......"Laser, what?"........"Ma'am, this is a MasterCard. We only accept Laser"............"OH..........that's all I have"............"There's an ATM across the road". Across the what?? Not across the store, across the road. Which of course meant, across town! It's not like anything can be easy! Mind you, Grant is still screaming, "I need to go potty!!!"
Have you ever driven in a roundabout? I'm not talking about those simple little circular intersections you may have encountered in a residential neighborhood. I'm talkin' a huge, 4 lane, circular intersection where cars are swerving in and out of multiple (like 5 or 6) different streets that all intersect, while driving approx. 60kph? Well, I have. 5 times that day to be exact. It's amazing what you will do for groceries. I swear I even had visions of pulling up on the sidewalk and letting Grant piddle on the side of the road because, as I'm sure you've guessed......no public toilets in the grocery store either!
Sorry...no pictures yet, my computer is acting up. I promise I'll get some as soon as I can. Until our next adventure.......