How do the Brits Survive Those Wrong‑Way Drivers?

By Erma Bombeck

I suppose a lot of you think your ancestors came to America to escape religious and political persecu­tion, don't you? Did it ever occur to you that these brave immigrants migrated to a new world so they could drive on the right side of the road?

My husband and I have just returned from a vaca­tion to a British owned island where drivers drive on the left (or wrong) side of the road and frankly, we are lucky to be alive.

From the moment we climbed into the rental car, we sensed something was amiss. My husband said, "Where's my steering wheel?"

I said, "I have it."

"I thought you didn't want to drive."

"Crawl over the gearshift and it's yours."

He eased the car out of the parking lot and into the traffic. I'm here to tell you, we have lived life in the slow lane and life in the fast lane, but until you've spend a few days in the left lane, you have nothing to talk about.

Every time a car approached, my husband came to a dead stop and shut his eyes until it passed. Ev­erything about the car defied familiarity. When he tried to turn on the light, he succeeded in releasing the hood. When the windshield wipers began racing back and forth, I asked, "What are your doing?"

"Signalling for a left‑hand turn", he said.

In the entire two weeks we were there, we never passed another car, put our car in reverse, parallel parked or made a right‑hand turn. About the 50th time I told him he was drifting to the wrong side of the road, he reminded me that he was doing the best he could while I just sat there and sucked in my breath. That's when I exploded. "Being a passenger in this car is no day at the beach," I said. "I have been flogged to death by tree branches, drenched by gut­ter water and have seen fear in the eyes of pedestrians that will haunt me for the rest of my life!" I don't know why the Europeans make it so hard on themselves to drive. They've got enough prob­lems without driving on the wrong side of the road. In retrospect, that could have been one of the rea­sons the war went badly for them. They were going the wrong way and didn't know it.

I'm just glad that my ancestors dreamed of a new land … a place where passengers didn't have to im­pale themselves on the brake to get to their seats … where you didn't have to be left‑handed to shift gears, and where the tranquillity of the country­side was not interrupted by a hysterical wife shouting at her husband, "Idiot! We're turning left! Put on your windshield wipers!"

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