Monday, July 21, 2008

Road Tripping

I'm sitting here and typing with all the energy drained out of me. The reason is that this morning I had my first 1.5 hour driving lesson in Athens, in Athens traffic on a Monday morning, almost entirely in Greek.

The lesson itself wasn't all that bad. I just ran myself into the ground worrying about how the hell I was supposed to understand what to do in a Greek driving lesson. I went to bed with a migraine and woke up with my head pounding, terrified that the instructor would say left and, in my stressed state, I would go right and, well, you can fill in the gaps. You've all seen what Athens traffic is like. Let's just say I shave my legs every day only so that if the worst should happen the paramedics don't talk about my hairy legs in the ambulance.

But you know, it all turned out okay. I didn't stall once and the only time the instructor had to resort to English was when I kept hitting the gas on a turn while he was saying freno (brake). Finally he said, "Freno, brake re!"

Oh yeeeeaaaaaah, the lyric in Nikos Mixas's song goes Μα δεν πατάω το φρένο, not δεν πατάω το gas. By playing the song in my head, I didn't make that mistake again. We drove all the way out to Venillio, the kitchy clam-shaped nightclub where I'd partied till the break of dawn on Friday night.

I suppose I wasn't as terrible as I had predicted since the instructor turned up the radio and made a bunch of phone calls with me at the wheel, or rather on the wheel, stuck up against it as close as I could get as most anxious new drivers and little old ladies do. I noticed that people were significantly more tolerant of me in a car plastered with L plates than they were with me in a car with a N stuck on the back.

It was a whole other driving experience, especially the no rules roundabouts, not putting on the handbrake every time you stop the car and cross armed turning. I'm going to have to unlearn a few things I was taught in the UK. Actually I prefer the driving methods in Athens, it seems like I was being taught how to drive, not how to pass a test. Test driving in the UK is nothing like what people actually drive like.

I have two more morning sessions tomorrow and Wednesday, so I would advise you all to stay off the roads between 8.30 and 10 am. Now I am settled with a glass of red wine to try and soothe the stress headache that's been following me around all morning. Phew!


teacher dude said...

I remember trying to learn to ride a motorbike by kangerooing across town on many occasions. How I survived that first month is byond me. Still, what are you going to do about the written part of your driving test? Luckily, I did the old system and that meant learnt 25 multiple tests by heart.

bollybutton said...

Thank heavens I don't have to worry about any of that because I don't need to get a Greek licence since I have one of those new EU licences from passing the test in the UK. I'm just trying to learn how to drive on the other side of the road now.

Anonymous said...

It's just a case of getting used to it. Once you've been driving here a while, it'll be the notion of a right hand drive car and driving on the left hand side of the road that will freak you out.


"Let's just say I shave my legs every day only so that if the worst should happen the paramedics don't talk about my hairy legs in the ambulance."

Still laughing.