Why the driving lessons?

05Nov09

Well, thing is, I didn’t want to jinx it by telling all, but I was invited to go on holiday to America, to New England. Which was all lovely until it became clear that there was hiring of a car involved, and that I would be required to get myself to places under my own steam. Now, as previously stated, I do know how to drive. At least, I did know how to drive, but I’m not persuaded that these skills become entrenched. It’s more that if you don’t use them for, say, 10-15 years, they can kind of flake off. Hence the refresher lessons, and the words I wanted to hear: ‘You’re fine, you don’t need any more coaching.’

I dutifully printed off a key to traffic signs and read the rules of the road, but I still hated the thought of driving, and the unconscious obviously rules my roost. It was only when I was filling in the immigration forms in Dublin airport that I realised, with a clap to the forehead, that I’d left my licence at home. I don’t live in Dublin. I live in London. This is not a bus ride home to pick it up. This is a sea away. This is a get on the Aer Lingus flight to America and spend five hours gibbering with anxiety about how this could possibly be worked out.

Maybe, I said to the woman beside me who was involuntarily roped in to making me feel better, maybe they’ll just let me offer my passport and credit card. She didn’t say anything, in much the same way as my brother had failed to respond to my text message an hour earlier. Sodsodsod.

Arrived at Logan airport, shuttle bus to car rental place. The clerk told me that if I could get someone to photocopy the licence and the paper bit and fax it over, then that would probably be ok. Or I could go over to the state police and they could summon up my licence on their computer. Really? I was incredulous. The UK is a surveillance state, yes, but the US?

Can the cops really access British databases? No, chuckled the desk sergeant when the nice car-rental bus driver had broken the rules and taken me all the way across to the police station. But he looked up the bus timetable and asked his lovely colleague Herb to drive me back to the airport and put me on the bus.

Well, I was in love with America by now, and regretfully said goodbye to Officer Herbie (family from Killarney, keeps meaning to visit) and boarded the bus that was honestly called Peter Pan, with only a hazy idea of where I was going. Upping the ante just that bit more, it was around this time that I discovered that my phone didn’t work, and I had no way of contacting the hotel to tell anyone where I was. But then again, I did learn the best way to cook squid, as dictated by the bus driver who turned out to be from the Azores (Make sure it’s very fresh, then simmer it slowly in red wine. Presumably it doesn’t matter how long you cook it, it’s always going to look like something in the bottom of a vet’s bin, but I didn’t say anything. Would a sprinkle of chopped parsley help? I loathe squid so I’ll never know).

Arrived down in Falmouth on Cape Cod and huddled out of the wind and rain with a charming twentysomething man who lent me his phone to call a taxi. He worked for a sustainable-energy company, in energy storage. I’d read a bit on the topic and he told me about the latest ideas while we waited to be collected. He was one of those astonishingly clever products of those astonishingly good universities around Boston. Good looking too. Sigh.

I’d only been in the country four hours, and I still had five days to go. Was it going to be this action packed for the whole time? Pretty much, yes. But that’s enough for today.

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