How to Remember to Drive on the Left
By Diana Estill
search of adventure, I spent a week driving on
the wrong side of the road. Well, truthfully,
I was a passenger — but that only amplified my
experience. You see, I'm the kind of gal whose
vocal cords freeze in a crisis. My husband, though,
is a screamer.
going to be KILLED!" he said.
since I had neither a steering wheel nor a brake
pedal on my side of the car, I considered these
might be his final words.
usual, I'd reserved a rental car for our vacation.
Only this time, we were on Grand Cayman Island
— where locals drive on the left and tourists
just left the airport in one of those Mr. Bean
cars — essentially, a coffin with wheels. "Do
you have the directions?" my husband shouted.
He clenched the steering column, both hands fisted.
"Do you know where the heck we're supposed
to be going?"
course, I did! I had the name of the town and
hotel address. I had an origami rental agency map. What more did he want?
spun the map several times until it's printing
righted. "We have to go north," I instructed,
way is north?" he demanded.
am I? A compass?"
about to crash this thing! Will you tell me which
way to go?"
was no need to yell. I was sitting close enough
to feel his pulse, which was synchronized with
the windshield wipers he'd inadvertently triggered.
(The wiper switch was on the left side of the
steering column, where the signal lever should
twisted and pulled at every knob within reach.
"How do you turn these things off?"
Swatting the signal arm, he set the indicators
blinking in counter-time with the wipers. All
this added commotion caused him to brake hard
and swerve left into a commercial driveway. Right
then, one of the three suitcases we'd stacked
in the back seat flew forward and clobbered him
in the head.
By the time he'd regained his composure, the sun had set.
Traveling by twilight, we encountered the first of several "roundabouts" -- a vehicular intersection where cars circle at high speeds and nobody knows where they're going. We missed the bob-truck, veered into the right lane (which was the wrong one) and narrowly completed our connection.
From there we followed a two-lane road that had no streetlights, sidewalks or shoulders. This left us competing for pavement alongside pedestrians, dogs and overgrown bougainvilleas.
"If we ever find this place," said my husband, "I'm parking this car and we're staying put for the rest of the week."
I wanted to say something positive, but I couldn't. My intestines had a stranglehold on my esophagus.
After two passes, we found our destination hidden behind a row of flowering hedges. I looked at my mate and said, "I don't care if we have to live on our stash of airline pretzels and peanuts. I'm not getting back out there on that street."
But fear couldn't keep us in a death-grip forever. Soon we realized we had to make a choice. Either persist or perish. So two days later, under threat of starvation, we ventured past our hotel lobby and out into the parking lot. "Other people do this," I said peering out at Death Road. "We can, too!"
My husband nodded in agreement.
Just then, another Bean-mobile whipped into the hotel driveway and an ashen-faced couple spilled out from it. They stood, gazing heavenward and making the sign of the cross.
I hoped they'd packed plenty of peanuts.