Karma Down Under: From the Bluegrass to Bushwalking a Kentucky Reporter’s Australian Adventures

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Driving Down Under: 'The Other Side'

Driving Down Under: 'The Other Side'

by Karma Dickerson

WHAS11.com

Posted on January 28, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 28 at 10:25 PM

So I walk into the rental car garage trying to look as calm as possible. No nervous twirling my hair no crossed arms, just eyes forward and head straight for the goal. Hopefully the attendants are taking this for a confident strut indicating I clearly know what I'm doing. Problem is... I'm already panicking. Spot #75... Spot #75... I can't find it!!! What kind of order are these things in? Do these people number things backwards too? Next level up maybe?

As I turn to walk up the ramp I see the blue Corolla in an end space. Excellent. Relieved, I actually do an excellent imitation of a casual walk to the car. I pull open the driver side door, start to step in, and mercifully realize my mistake before sitting down. I'm actually on the passenger side. I can feel the attendants watching me suspiciously so in the first of what would become many efforts to play off that same mistake, I throw my purse in the passenger seat and walk around to the right side... the Australian driver side.

 I'm finally inside and it generally looks the same as any other car minus the driver location. Okay. I'm fine. This is semi familiar. I can do this. I pull forward and begin to cut into a tight left turn. For an instant I was quite proud of myself for remembering to turn into the left side of the road instead of the right...that is until I heard the loud scrape of metal on concrete. Apparently I hadn't turned widely enough. Ooops. Before the attendants could out the source of the noise and rethink their absurd decision to rent me a car, I corrected and fled.  Exiting the garage and preparing to turn onto the streets of Melbourne, I don't know what was racing faster, my heart or my mind.

Oh geez, I've already hit something in my first five minutes of driving here and that was just in the parking garage. How can I make it when you add in other drivers and weird traffic rules? This is insane. What were these people thinking renting me a car? I'm clearly American. Shouldn't there have been some sort of road test? or at least a sanity evaluation? At least one of those would have disqualified me. Oh this is going to be soooo bad.

Once on the mean streets of Melbourne, I notice despite its size, the city's driving culture is pretty tame. Motorists are generally polite and follow traffic rules; you hardly ever hear a horn honk or witness any road rage. But it does have its quirks. Driving on the other side of the road isn't so hard when you're just going straight; but trying to remember not to swing wide on a left turn or driving through a roundabout...going clockwise.   All that with trolleys and buses running through the center traffic lane is nerve wracking.  Not to mention I keep turning on my windshield wipers instead of my turn signal. But by far the strangest thing about driving in downtown Melbourne is turning right.  At many major intersections, to turn right you have to pull into the furthest LEFT hand lane and turn across all of the lanes going your way plus all the lanes of opposing traffic. It's organized chaos and despite my best efforts I still don't totally get it.

Realizing all this, a normal person might have given up driving here as a bad idea. Yes a normal, rational person...but not me. I have big plans for my last full day in the state of Victoria and they center around a road trip. Dun dun dun. Pray for me. Better yet pray for the whole state of Victoria. I'll let you know how it goes.


 

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