Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Being a tourist... driving around.

So, just because I work midnight to 8am (for the first part of my Scotland trip) isn't a reason to miss out on all the great tourism opportunities, apparently.  So, another guy who is standing watch on a different shift than me decided he was going to go castle hunting.  I asked if I could join him, since I didn't want to sit at the hotel all day for my day off.  He said yes.

The next morning at 0615 I woke up, showered, got dressed and was ready to go by 7.  Please note, I've not been going to bed till after 9am on days that I've worked, but that night I went to bed by 1230 with the help of a sleeping pill.  Who's gonna be jacked up when she gets home??  This girl!  We took my rental car and he drove, which was fine because I was still tired.  Also, riding gives me the opportunity to enjoy the scenery... and helps me learns that I really do have some control freak issues...  oops.

I was very worried about driving when I arrived in Scotland.  They drive on the opposite side of the road, on the opposite side of the car, and most of the cars are manual transmissions.  Luckily, the pedals are still in the same order as in America, which was the most beneficial thing.  I quickly was able to pick up driving.  The biggest reminder I have to give myself is to get on the LEFT side of the road...  we'll get to that.

After driving for 10+ minutes, I get into the swing of things and have minimal issues (unless I'm doing a u-turn, and those are always tricky and usually result in 3 point turns).  As a passenger, I try not to pay attention to the driving abilities of the driver.  I just navigate when asked and try to keep my passenger seat driver (since I'm not often actually in the back seat) quiet.

Several times on our castle huntin' trip, I couldn't control my passenger seat driver.  She had outburts like, TURN! when I was almost certain that we were going to keep going straight while the road curved to the right. Or CURB! when I started to feel the road get bumpy and realized what the next obstacle was going to be.  But roundabouts were my biggest demon.

I understand that as a driver in a different country, things are already strange.  Then you add in roundabouts.  America seriously needs more roundabouts.  Traffic congestion would be so much less after the initial idiots were weeded out after having accidents.  I was thrown into the roundabout world in Bahrain.  One of my first driving experiences in Bahrain included going through a THREE LANE ROUNDABOUT!  WTF?!  1.  Arab drivers.  Woah.  2.  THREE LANES of cars/trucks/transfer trucks/etc vehicles.  Woah.  3.  My own inexperience.  Eyes = opened.

Lessons about roundabouts:
-Don't stop unless there is a red light or another car coming.  As in, passing in front of you.  If there is an opening, keep going.  If it looks close, you're probably alright.  If its a line of cars, start pressing the gas as the last car passes you.  Hesitation is your enemy.
-If you know that the road you are exiting to has 2 lanes, you can exit from the middle.  If the road you are exiting onto only has 1 lane, you need to be in the left most lane.
-Don't blame other drivers for being stupid if you're the person pressing on the brakes in the middle of a roundabout.  Roundabouts go in circles, its nice that way, so if you miss your exit, you can just keep going around.  Woah.

My passenger seat driver also had to yell out GO! when I realized the driver was trying to stop to merge into the left lane to exit the roundabout.  OMG scary.  Talk about the stink eye from the locals.  The only thing scarier than that during my Scotland trip was the curvy one-lane roads with other cars that didn't look like they were going to share the road (although the difference was, that wasn't my rental car)..  at least so far.

As for myself being a driver.. sometimes, I, too, make mistakes...  Like tonight after dinner.  The keys were relinquished to me since my castle huntin' partner decided to have a few beers at dinner.  When I pulled out onto the main road, I got in the right lane like it was no one else's business.  At which point his passenger seat driver stared yelling, "WRONG WAY!  WRONG WAY!  WRONG WAY!"

At first I was confused, because I knew that we were supposed to turn left to head back to the hotel, then I realized, WRONG LANE.  This was quickly remedied, what with the oncoming cars that were also starting to confuse me for the 3 seconds that I was in the wrong lane.  Oops.. even persons almost having mastered roundabouts still choose the wrong lane while driving in a different country sometimes.

A few reminders:

I think the languages for the road signs is Gaelic and English..  not sure though.

Roundabouts.  Scaring Passenger Teh Megan forever.

Quality store.  Suited to meet all vices no matter your age.

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