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How to Remember to Drive on the Left

By Diana Estill

In 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.

"We're going to be KILLED!" he said.

And 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.

As 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 sometimes forget.

We'd 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?"

Of 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?

I spun the map several times until it's printing righted. "We have to go north," I instructed, "toward Boddentown."

"Which way is north?" he demanded.

"What am I? A compass?"

"I'm about to crash this thing! Will you tell me which way to go?"

There 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 have been.)

He 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.

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