Our family of five were newly arrived in New York. The morning after we arrived, I ventured onto our driveway to familiarise myself with the hire car that had been delivered the evening before. Knowing I had to contend with driving on the right side of the road, it was imperative that I practice with the blinkers, windscreen wiper and other signals that were the reverse of our right-hand drive vehicles. I planned on practicing around the neighbourhood streets for a few days before venturing out onto the major roads.
Yelping, I automatically drew my foot up from the floor of the Oldsmobile and glanced down. The entire floor was covered in icy-cold water. We eventually discovered that the air-conditioning had been leaking internally. There went my plans for easing onto New York’s main roads!
With three youngsters in tow, I mentally prepared myself after my husband (from work) immediately organised a replacement car with another rental company. Just prior to the representative picking us up, I conveyed the importance of the kids acting as my little helpers as we had yet to purchase a street directory and this was in the days before GPS.
The eldest son was assigned the task of watching for landmarks and street names on the right side of the road, while the second eldest was given the left side to watch. And of course, the three-year-old had the middle seat, so she was allocated the extremely important duty of watching through the front windscreen. The task had to be carried out in silence so that we could all concentrate and memorise the details.
While a woman drove us to the rental office, I managed to chat and keep a sharp eye out for street names and store signs. After signing the required documents, an agent cheerfully handed me the car keys and told me the car was out the front. A large, burgundy coloured sedan awaited us. Buckling all the children in, I told them that I needed their help in getting back home without a map and more importantly, I needed their undivided attention, their cooperation and their silence (meaning ‘no squabbling or arguing’), as I was about to tackle the New York traffic for the very first time and would be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
To this day, I marvel at the cooperation of all three children. I placed my eldest who had studied the roads and signage, on the left side for the return journey and the second son on the right side of the car. After adjusting the mirrors and practicing with the indicators, I took a deep breath and ventured out into the fast-flowing traffic. The kids pointed out various landmarks that they had seen on the way to the hire company which fortunately tallied with my observation list and the names of the various streets we had passed. I passed my first ‘heart-in-the-mouth,’ trip with flying colours!
Thereafter, I adapted to right side driving with ease and even when I struck, ‘black-ice,’ during the winter season, I adjusted to conditions.
© Wendy Robinson
I’ve learnt that every loss or defeat reveals an important surprise … for time will prove each set back, was a blessing in disguise. ~ Linda Ellis (Author of The Dash)