Even after 6 months I still go to get in the passenger side of the car to drive it! Driving on the wrong side of the road isn't as hard as you might think. For a start it helps to have the car the wrong way round. Right side for driver! However, for someone who doesn't know their left from right, it has posed some challenges!
I had to take my test within 60 days of being in North Carolina. I arrived at the test centre (center for any American readers) on day 60! I did try to read the NC driving manual before the test... really I did!
The first part of the test was verbal. I got interviewed by a man who showed me some blank road signs and asked me what they meant. I pointed out that this was unfair as they were blank. It turns out that only a railroad crossing is a yellow circle and only a little house shape is a school and I should know that. In my defence I reminded him that on the highway the sign always has little people in it!
He then showed me some other signs and asked me to explain them. One was a yellow diamond with 'Yield ahead' written in it. I explained that it meant give way to other vehicles. He looked at me utterly exasperated. Turns out - all he wanted me to say was 'Yeild ahead'. It was a reading test! Finally he showed me a blank yellow triangle. I admitted I hadn't got a clue - pointing out that in real life it wouldn't be blank. He said 'No passing'. I was shocked. I said 'Shit! Really? I failed? Am I that bad?' To which he said 'the sign is 'No Passing' -you now need to take an on line test!'. All of this was, of course, after he had described his love of Scotland.
The on line test was 25 questions of which I had to get something like 22 correct. I got the first 3 wrong! I readjusted my thinking to be like an American. For example, which carries the most points - leaving the scene of an accident or overtaking a yellow 'Freddie Kruggar' school bus with its stop sign out? The yellow school bus is premium! Drive home pissed (most Americans I have met do!) but don't ever drive past a stationary school bus. Instant ban! Once I got the American logic I got the remainder of the questions correct. Fine to drive whilst drinking hot Starbucks and chatting on your mobile but watch out for that bus! My daughter, at the age of 8 has been ridiculed for still sitting in a booster seat. American mentality. Just as an aside - I hosted a Halloween street party and did apple bobbing. Several parents would not let their children bob for apples because of 'shared spit' in the water. Killer germs! Those same parents will let their children ride in their cars, not in booster seats while they chat on the phone and drink hot coffee! No one to my knowledge ever died of apple bobbing!
I then had the driving test. I was fairly scared. I had barely got used of the frequent terror moments that get you when driving on the wrong side of the road - those hideous flashbacks to the right side of the road when you get totally confused about where the f**k you should be! (Julia - you'll remember one such moment in Cyprus- on the wrong side - turns out it was a dual carriage way) I led him to my vehicle and the test began. He immediately started talking to me about driving on the wrong side of the road in England (and of course his love of Scotland). He described in detail his frustration at roundabouts and how his wife had to navigate... not this exit, not this exit, turn left, turn left NOW. His tone had changed. I asked him if he was describing his driving experiences in England or instructing me. Turns out he was doing both! I really wanted to interrupt his reminiscence of discovering the Burbeck tartan after his name sake to tell him I was trying to concentrate on driving the wrong side of the road and to please shut the f**K up!
I had to reverse in a straight line. I failed miserably. He said he understood that it was because I was used to looking over my other shoulder. He even gave me a mini lesson in reversing. I didn't have the heart to tell him I have never been able to reverse in a straight line! Driving back to the test center we came to some lights where I had to turn right. The lights were on red. I sat! he looked at me funny. I then remembered I could turn left on a red! Red light! Go! This has confused me - Be warned - it differs from state to state but in NC you can turn left on a red (if it is safe to do so) unless it is a red you cant turn left on! There are both types in NC! I was so confused I started to turn right on reds too. That is an offence - not as offensive as overtaking a stopped school bus but bad!
At the end of the test he informed me that he had talked to me to see if I focused on him or the road. He said he was pleased to observe I hadn't taken my eyes off the road. That was because I was desperately trying to work out which side of the f**king road I should be on!
In truth, the test was easy. No reversing into a parking spot or emergency stops and it was only 15 minutes long. Driving here is easy. No roundabouts, congestion or aggressive honking of horns. If I do hear a horn it is usually because I have forgotton to go right on a red!