Flip Flop Flying

Drive my car

with 16 comments

I’m not a driver. I’ve got a licence, I passed my test when I was 17; but I never drove much. Never had a car until this year. And since I’ve had my licence, I’ve only ever driven with no passenger for a few minutes. Until today.

This morning I got the inclination to do it, though. I umm-ed and aah-ed for a couple of hours, but then I chucked some stuff in a bag, got Billy’s lead and decided to go to the seaside. I was testing myself more than anything. The seaside was just a place to touch the wall, like a swimmer does when he’s doing lengths, then come back home knowing I’d done it: I’d gone on a long-ish journey on my own.

First the good news. Billy and I got home in one piece, as these words on your screen testify. And I kinda enjoyed it at times. I was lucky-ish with the traffic (not too many cars to bug me) and the route (a bit of city driving, a bit of autobahn, some minor decent roads, some country roads). I managed to light my cigarettes without veering into the oncoming traffic, too.

Sadly, the bad news section of this post is gonna be a lot longer. I’m rubbish at starting the car at traffic lights. I’m fine changing gears, but from the red light, I’ll stall the car at least 20% of the time. This only happens when there’s a car behind me. I’m positive it’s psychological. The more I do it, the more stressed I get each time there’s a suit-jacket-hanging-in-the-back-window BMW type dude behind me. But, I was okay at it today. Still managed it a couple of times, but on the whole, I was better. I even managed a swift 3-point turn in the middle of a street when I missed an exit without any errors at all.

Talking of which, my first big mistake was missing my exit on the autobahn. Rather than going north, I was on my way east to Poland on a road that must’ve been laid in the early days of the DDR cos it was prefab slabs of concrete with a rubbish grouting between each slab which makes for a bumpy ride.

My second big mistake was looking at the petrol gauge as I passed a petrol station rather than before I passed it. Eek, it’s nearly on the red… Better find somewhere. 10km later, still no stations, so I take the next exit, figuring that in one of the surrounding towns there’d be one. Three villages later: nothing. So I stop and ask directions in shit German (“Ich sucht Benzin. Wo, bitte?”). I follow what I thought were the correct directions and ended up on the countriest country road. Imagine a load of vaguely flat rocks randomly thrown on a wonky dirt track. For 7 fucking kilometers. Billy’s wondering what the hell’s going on, the car keeps slipping out of gear cos of the bumpiness, and the needle is getting closer and closer to the bottom of the red bit. Eventually, just as my teeth were about to fall out, the road goes Tarmac and I’m in another village. I ask another local and am directed down the main street. I follow this street. No petrol station, but I am heading back towards the autobahn I need to go north. And then, just to make sure, I pull over to check the map. That red line is the one I need…onto the next page…out the top of that one, onto page, flick flick flick, page 23…yep, I’m going the right way. Now, Craig, let’s git some GAS, dude! Turn key. Nothing. Turn key. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Fuck. Ing. Hell. Resigned to the situation, calls are made, and an hour later a man from the ADAC (the German version of the RAC or AA: the people who help you out when your car’s buggered) comes along and fills her up. And all it costs is six euros for the petrol. I love this man.

The rest of the journey is okay. Apart from a few tractors on the narrow roads that create a bit of a delay. But, y’know, there was one point when I managed to get past two of them without coming out of third gear. I, err, just forgot to change gear. I do this a lot. I also managed to drive for a couple of minutes with the handbrake on. Oh, yeh: Mario Andretti, me…

Due to all the faffing around, time was ticking on, so I didn’t go to the place I wanted to go to, I just found the nearest piece of beach, parked up in a nice big mostly-empty car park, and Billy and I chucked-and-fetched a stick for an hour or so until it was nearly dark.

Back at the car, Billy and I had our tea (he dog food, me gummi bears) and we hit the road, Jack. I enjoyed the trip back for quite a long time. The sky was pretty, the moon was huge and full, and the local radio station was playing the top 100 hits of 1993 so I was singing along to, err, shit records (hello M People, hello Spin Doctors).

One thing I realised is that it’s so tough to keep your concentration when driving. I’m so used to being a passenger, being the map reader, the commentator; and you can’t do any narrating for yourself when your driving, no looking at those cows, no pointing out a creaky old man on a creaky old bike. But my mind was drifting, and it was getting a bit monotonous, and I neglected to notice the speed limit had changed until saw a bright orange flash of light from above, where a speed camera was. Really, Craig, what were you doing? Running out of petrol and getting caught speeding. Idiot.

The kilometres to Berlin clicked down, getting closer, can’t wait to be home, frankly. Losing reception on that 1993 hits station. Nope, nope, Radio GaGa, I’ll listen to that, change again, nope, nope, oooh, a bunch of country songs on this station, I’m having that. Head nodding, and then I begin to see buildings that I recognise on the outskirts of Berlin. Nearly home.

Soon enough, I’m in my neighbourhood. Going slow, looking for a parking space. None on my street. Take a right into a narrow street with cars parked along both sides. One side’s got cars parallel parked, the other side has cars coming out at right angles to the pavement. A space! A space! I see a space! I try once. Back up. Try again. Back up. Getting closer. Taxi pulls up behind. He’ll have to bloody wait. Try again. Nope. Two more cars are waiting from the other direction. Taxi driver’s getting impatient. Beep! beep! Fail again. Okay, I give up. So I drive off. And the same taxi driver pulls up along side me as we’re driving along a two lane street and he just hovers next to me as we’re going along. I look over and he’s laughing at me. Finger. He winds down his window and shouts stuff at me. I wind window up not wanting to get myself in trouble. But I’ve still gotta park this damn car. So I drive and drive, and eventually find a nice easy big-enough-for-two-cars space about a ten minutes walk from the flat.

It was an adventure, I guess. At least I had an ice cream at the seaside, but, oh brother, am I glad to be back at home sat in front of a machine I know how to use.

Written by Craig

August 19th, 2005 at 2:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses to 'Drive my car'

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  1. Jipy! I’m not alone!..
    Be proud of yourself (and maybe practise a little..)


    19 Aug 05 at 08:09

  2. Or get an automatic car so several of the bad things aren’t so bad…


    19 Aug 05 at 10:27

  3. Ha! I can second Mark. I’m learning to drive at the moment. Pulling away ‘when it counts’ likeat a junction/roundabout/whatever was always a big panic, and I often stalled. But I’ve been driving everywhere recently to practise and all of a sudden it just clicked, and you don’t even think about it anymore. But it was just practice for me :-)


    19 Aug 05 at 11:18

  4. ha! cool story! i am glad to know it isn’t just us/we that like to take long car drives more for the drive than for the destination. refreshing.

    mama jens

    19 Aug 05 at 11:34

  5. The petrol gauge in my car is broken, its a very old but loved beetle, so I have had many a fun waits for the RAC to come and rescue me from various points along the M3 and A303! I have now invested in a spare can of petrol. Keep driving though, think of all the new places you can go.


    19 Aug 05 at 14:50

  6. Definitely keep at it. It makes life so much easier being able to drive. The only thing I’ve had to call the AA out for was locking my keys in my car, and putting the steering wheel lock on when the key for it was 200 miles away at home. Oops.


    19 Aug 05 at 16:13

  7. And I always thought AA was Alcohololics Anonymous, but there you go, you learn something new every day.
    Craig, for f* sake! Commute! When I stopped laughing, came to my senses, I just thought “he’s going to kill himself – or someone else – if he doesn’t get the hang of it really quick(ly?), and then I won’t be able to read my favourite blog ever again”. Ok, that was selfish but… I could see you bumping along on the roads, Billy jumping beside you.

    I know you’re a sensible guy. I’ll try not to worry like a mother hen. ;)



    19 Aug 05 at 18:00

  8. Holy crap that was funny. I’d like to see you in that car in New York city. If you’re ever in LA let me know and you can drive my huge Ford F-150 on the 405 at rush hour, now that’s fun. There would be plenty of room in the back though for Billy to run around and get air. Check it out.


    Thoroughly Amused

    19 Aug 05 at 18:43

  9. Public transportation all the waaaaaaaaay! People who drive in Brooklyn, New York can be out of their minds!


    20 Aug 05 at 04:41

  10. You know, I’m not sure I want to practice. After yesterday, I’m wondering if I’m just not meant to be a driver. If I could be transported automatically to autobahn without having touse city streets or park the car, then driving rocks. But as it is, I’m not so sure.
    And I am very aware that one tiny mistake at exactly the wrong moment means I’m Jackson Pollock.
    The idea of driving in the USA fills me with dread. On my trip to the seaside I was behind an SUV for about 10 minutes and it drove me insane not having any idea what the road was like in front of it. I cannot possibly imagine having to drive a normal car when completely surrounded by the damn things.
    Lisa, yes! Public transport. Not only safer, but better for everyone.


    20 Aug 05 at 10:25

  11. Well, I love to drive.
    But parking a car in the right space is sometimes difficult in a big city like Tokyo. This morining as I got out of a club and looked around, my car was nowhere to be seen…
    Apparently, it had been towed away. Darn!Darn!Darn!!!
    Since all the spaces in the parking lot was full last night, I took a chance, parking in a ileagal parking zone.
    With sleepy eyes, went to the police station, payed ¥30000(about 215euros) penalty fee trying hard to block the anger within me.
    I could of bought an iPod mini for that money!!
    I always wish I could make my car shirink to pocket size, so I can carry it in my bag or somthing.


    20 Aug 05 at 10:47

  12. I take back my comment. I’m in your position where I have a drivers’ license but never use it because of mysterious reasons. Maybe fear of traffic, maybe because the tube and the bus are perfectly alright and because the parking situation in Stockholm is a laugh (for us without cars i e).

    I suppose it’s a sense of freedom. And you soon will get the hang of it. My mom hates when I drive, which I sometimes insist of doing when I go visit her. Her foot on the break (brake) side goes stiff in cramp and she mutters “you drive like a sodding car thief”. So I prefer the safe buses and the convenient tube.

    But with that said, I think you should just go for it. Drive, practice, have small family picnics and enjoy your car.



    20 Aug 05 at 11:09

  13. How come you don’t speak fluent German?


    20 Aug 05 at 15:56

  14. Lazy.


    20 Aug 05 at 16:03

  15. and honest… ;-)


    20 Aug 05 at 19:36

  16. i haven’t driven in four years.

    four years ago, i just got my license.

    that’s it, really.

    now my cousin is leaving me his manual jeep. i don’t know what to do with it, aside from polishing the hood and cleaning the interior.

    maybe i’ll just turn on the engine and turn it off again every morning.

    cat, circus and oddity

    22 Aug 05 at 11:54

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