After rendezvousing with my friend Valerie at her hotel and sprucing up a bit, we headed out into the hot streets of Perth to locate food and rental cars, practicing our left-hand side sidewalk walking against a sea of pedestrians and trying not to get run over as we crossed double-lane streets with traffic coming from the (relatively) wrong direction.
We meandered over to Bayswater, the car rental place where we had booked a car in advance. Preparing to rent our first car ever, we, as uneducated Americans who have never driven on the left side of the road, marched into the rental place full of bluster and acted very car-educated, however one does that, to disguise our entire lack of left-side car-driving capability. Valerie ruined our act when she asked what a liter was. Sigh. Hearing our accents and observing our lack of knowledge regarding the metric system, the people behind the desk immediately knew something was up and eyed us a bit suspiciously as they answered, “it’s a unit of measurement. Four and a half liters is equal to one gallon. ”
“Ah yes”, we nodded sagely, when really we were still trying to figure out the gas price signs, which read 196 56 in all caps and we interpreted as $196.56, not $1.9656. As they gave their simple answer to our liter question, which still left us still wondering how a liter could cost over $100 dollars, we sneakily reached out and grabbed on to the car keys from across the counter, slowly dragging them closer to us, just in case they came to the realization that we were idiots and should not in fact be given a car to drive.
After leaving the store, significantly poorer but with keys in hand, we hopped into our new rental car, ready to embark, and immediately encountered issues with the parking brake and the location of basically everything around the driver’s seat. A significant amount of time later, finally ready to pull out of the parking lot, we came upon our first challenge (excluding the whole parking lot debacle): turning right onto a two-lane busy road. Steeling myself, and recalling that “a right turn here is actually a left turn for me so I need to watch out for both lanes of traffic”, I confidently reached to flick on my right blinker and….. my windshield wipers went off. As the wipers slowly squeaked back and forth across my windshield, I sighed… talk about a blow to the ego. Of course, the wipers and blinkers are on opposite sides of the steering wheel as well. Why wouldn’t they be…
Long story short, I soon became a fantastic driver, despite that fact that hailing from Florida, a land of slow, old drivers, golf carts, and no parallel parking, I have had little need to develop my driving skills. Now, we zoom about (under the speed limit, of course) and merge into clock-wise going rotaries/roundabouts like a champ.
It it also very easy to identify our fellow right-side driving comrades; whenever a car prepares to turn and accidentally starts washing its windshield, we smile smugly. Poor blokes, they’ll learn.