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Posts tagged ‘right hand rule’

Oh I wish it could be Christmas every day!

Yep, that one’s still jingling around my skull, which – you might be interested to know – has the same acoustic effect as the shower.

Apart from the cacophony that is my cranium, our Christmas was a quiet affair. No exploding fairy lights, high-volume Slade or heated arguments over pudding portions. There was a bit of crackling, but it was more of the crispy pork fat variety.

For me, Christmas in New Zealand continues to be a surreal experience – and more so with the parents issuing regular updates from Ireland which was in the grip of the coldest winter on record. Of course, the Middle East was hardly a winter wonderland at this time of year – or even any other time of year – but December was the chilliest month. If you turned the A/C right down, it was cool enough to wear a scarf and drink mulled wine.

West Auckland apparently hit 34 degrees on Christmas Day, so the coldest we got was a light swelter.

Generally I have proved hugely adaptable to Kiwi culture, bending like an all-black in a spear tackle to the various concepts of: perky nana bars, boiling mud, black sand, honesty boxes, the right hand rule.

But I’m not sure I will ever get used to celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer.

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Wanky wanky shit bollox

When we were sorting out the MR2 and the Mazda – which we are fostering for a while – the insurance company refused to cover me without a New Zealand driving licence.

It seems Kiwis are pretty relaxed about car insurance – amongst other things – and many only insure new cars. Allegedly 200,000 drivers in NZ are uninsured, one of whom we bumped into last month. Well, technically she bumped into us when Husband, in full compliance with the Left Hand Rule, gave way to someone turning right and the car behind attempted to drive up the MR2’s exhaust pipe.

Anyway. Being a former project manager and mildly obsessive/compulsive and my father’s daughter, driving uninsured was not an option. I’m not too concerned about potential damage to my car – that’s the Mazda, which is known as ‘my car’ or ‘your car’ depending on who is talking at any given time, Husband or me, and let’s face it, it’s usually me so for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick with the former. My car still projects a striking olfactory presence, has more rust than metal and a dent in the front bumper where a rubbish bin misjudged Husband’s sense of distance.

No, what I’m worried about is some drunk, coked-up Kiwi pop star crashing into me and bribing the police with wads of cash and a few personalised autographs to allege it was my fault and hitting me with a repair bill for NZ$ 300,000 for damage to the bodywork down the passenger side of his Audi R8. (Agreed, that scenario is pretty unlikely: there aren’t any Kiwi pop stars. Let’s say some All Black high on testosterone and steering with his feet.)

Happily and improbably, I had excavated my UK driving licence during the final site dig in Dubai. Carbon dating placed the artefact circa early 1990s, but it was valid until 2036. To convert it to a NZ driving licence, I had to take the driving theory test.

Since it has been years since I’ve sat any sort of exam, perhaps it’s not surprising that I was nervous. It didn’t help that anyone I mentioned it to said, “Don’t worry, mate. Test is a piece of piss,” or “Nah mate, my cousin passed and he’s a blind epileptic autistic midget. Aw yeh, couldn’t even reach the pedals, mate. You’ll be sweet AS.”

Eventually I bought a Road Code and sample test paper from the BP garage. Unfortunately, I didn’t do so well on the sample paper. I was gripped with false confidence by its striking resemblance to a piece of piss – and because it was multiple choice. Normally I’m GREAT at multiple choice exams. It’s a 50% chance of getting the answer right, since two options are usually misdirecting rubbish and can be instantly rejected.

The very first question disproved that theory. I scratched three of the four answers before getting the right one:

If you miss your exit on a motorway, you should:

(a) reverse back to the exit

(b) make a U-turn back to the exit

(c) drive on to the next exit

(d) stop and take a photo

In fairness, I spent the last 10 years driving around the Middle East where options a, b and d are valid manoeuvres.

I spent the next three weeks frantically swotting up on the Road Code. During this time, conversations usually went along the lines of:-

Me: “Aw, f-!”

Husband: “What?”

Me: “It’s ‘d’. Wanky wanky shit bollox.”

Husband knew all the answers, which was intensely annoying. I’m not talking about things like:

What side of the road should you drive on?

(a) left

(b) right

(c) down the middle preferably on two or less wheels

(d) if you drive fast enough your car will become airborne which is technically not ON the road at all

No; I’m talking about the sort of minutiae most normal people file in the dark recesses of their mind to make room for, you know, useful stuff.

Me: “Ok, question 281: if a load extends more than one metre out the back of your vehicle, what colour flag must you tie on?”

Husband: “Permissible colours are white, red, orange or fluorescent yellow. The flag must be at least 30cm by 40cm in size. The load must be firmly secured and not touch the ground.”

Me: “I didn’t ask you- that- the last things.”

Husband (primly): “Niamhie, you need to know this stuff.”

“I do! It’s just I haven’t read that bit yet-”

“What if you get a question about carrying a load on your car?”

“Shh! I’m READING, you occasionally deeply unpleasant individual.”

After a while, I was having dreams of parking on a fire hydrant in the middle of a railway crossing with out of order traffic lights. I was fully prepared, absolutely crammed:-

“Husband! Test me! Ask me anything!”

“Aw Niamhie, do we have to do this again?”

“You want me to pass, don’t you? Grill me on reversing into a driveway! Or the four second rule!”

“*sigh!* Ok. If driving in a 50 km/h area, the horn-”

“-on your vehicle should not be used between the hours of 11pm and 7am except in the event of an emergency. If you are having difficulty preparing for your test due to a language or reading difficulty, you should contact Literacy Aotearoa on 0800-900 999. Next!”

“Niamhie-”

“Come ON! Hit me!”

“If a flock of sheep are coming towards you on a country road, you should (a)-“

“Offer the farmer a fair price for the best looking sheep. Ha ha, only joking. The answer is (d) slow down, pull over to the side of the road and follow any advice the farmer may give you. Although, I don’t fully agree with that. I mean, if a farmer were to give me a fashion tip, I’m not sure I’d follow it.”

“All right, that’s it. No more.”

When Husband started having nightmares about beating me to death with The New Zealand Land Transport Road Code 2007, he packed me off to do the test. In the end, the most challenging part was the mandatory eye exam. I had to guess a couple of letters and the peripheral vision exercises were a joke.

“Which light is blinking,” asked the 12-year-old Test Official, “left or right?”

“Th- they’re both blinking,” I said. In fact it was like a war zone: I was seeing flashing lights all over the show.

“You should see one blinking more than the other.”

“Oh, right. The left. No! The right. No! The left. No-”

“Ok,” she said. “What- I passed?” She shrugged.

Apparently I must have, because she issued me a NZ driving licence

Right hand rule

I was getting quite adept at jump-starting the Mazda when Husband stripped off his shirt and glistened manfully in the sunlight. Oh yes, and he also sorted out the starter, exorcised the hazard lights, and fixed the driver’s window. The button now works in reverse to the rest of the electronic windows, but ‘works’ is the word to focus on here. (That reminds me, I really should go and wipe the greasy handprints off the inside of the window.)

We also got an air freshener.

After all that, Husband decided the Mazda didn’t suit his boy-racer image and talked me into buying a 1993 Toyota MR2. It’s a two-seater targer-top, which is quite possibly The Most Impractical Car in the World. (In the interests of fairness and full disclosure, I’d better point out that Husband claims the Yukon is the current titleholder.)

When we collected the MR2, we faced a dilemma. To date, I had fulfilled the role of Chief Navigator and, although I could give you the grid reference and corresponding map number of any street in the greater Auckland region, I am pretty rubbish at getting there without my eyes glued to the map and a spare digit following the route. Husband often turns left or right on whim, which doesn’t help.

So I drove the Mazda home with the A-Z propped against the steering wheel and Husband following in the MR2. By the time I neared Mount Wellington, I was well stressed, what with reading the map while watching the road and fretting about taking a wrong turn because Husband mightn’t love me any more (since I apply strict conditions to my love, I expect Husband does the same).

There is a bizarre right hand rule in New Zealand – or is it the left hand rule? – whereby – and look, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a bit here. Is it suspended? How about now? Ok. Visualise this: you’re driving along a main road, on the left hand side if you want to avoid head-on collisions. You want to turn left, and the car coming against you wants to turn into the same road, ie their right. Well, YOU HAVE TO GIVE WAY TO THAT DRIVER.

I suppose the NZ Transport Authority were kicking it around one day:

“What about this? Everyone’s driving on the left BUT at roundabouts they go anti-clockwise. Aw yeh? Aw yeh?”

“OR how about: everyone drives on the left except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays? We can tell them it’s to improve traffic flow. HA HA HA!”

“No, I have it. Alright lads, listen up. How about IF someone’s turning right, yeh, yeh, wait- ok, so they’re turning right, and someone else is turning right, no, left, no- WHATEVER, then that guy has to let the other one go. Except if he’s at a stop sign- no wait, except if he’s not at a stop sign. Doesn’t really matter. More obscure the better.”

“<awed silence>”

“Oh god, that’s beautiful.”

Now, I understand the left hand turn rule in theory, but in practice . . . I’ve examined it from any number of angles and maybe you can explain it to me, but it seems there’s just no way to make it work. Although I try.

On this occasion, I was turning right and the car coming against me indicated into the same road. She was moving pretty fast and I made the mistake of pausing. She went to go, then stopped, so I nudged forward, but she whipped around the corner, leaving me stranded across the wrong lane with a line of cars squeezing past.

“Did you see that COW?” I seethed to Husband back at the house. “That was TOTALLY my right of way!”

“Actually, not exactly,” said Husband. You’ll be noticing that after nearly 10 years together, the man still lives on the edge when he’s not preoccupied dicing with death. “If the car is turning left but there’s traffic backed up behind it which wants to go straight ahead-”

“Well how the <expletive deleted> am I supposed to know if they want to go straight when I can’t see their indicators?” I shouted.

Husband: “Yeah ok, it doesn’t make a lot of sense-”

“YA THINK?”

“Anyway, in that instance they have right of way-”

“Ok look, you’re making this up-” I said, getting a bit teary.

“No-”

“You ARE! You’re just- just making it up as you go along! You expect me to drive around this <expletive deleted> country – uninsured – and drive and <expletive deleted> navigate and expect me to turn LEFT! And then you make up some rule – I have no idea why, except you obviously don’t want sex for the next six months – or maybe you’re just trying to wind me up – well, I’M <EXPLETIVE DELETED> WOUND UP!”

I got my own back a week later, when I was driving the MR2 with Husband providing last-minute instruction from the passenger seat.

“Turn left here,” he said and, in my defence for what happened next, I was pre-occupied wondering whether I’d have to apply the handbrake to do so.

“Give way to that car,” said Husband. “Niamhie, the car turning right,” a note of panic creeping into his voice, “you need to give way-”

Now, Husband swears I floored the accelerator but he doesn’t have to swear because I admit it: I did, and thundered around the corner in oblivious violation of the Road Code, inches in front of the other car’s premature bumper.

“What the- what the hell!” screamed Husband. “Didn’t you HEAR me tell you to give way?”

“Kind of, yes.”

“But you ACCELERATED! . . . WHY?”

“Because the rule doesn’t make sense! Not even a little bit! None! Admit it! And ah,” I admitted, “I forgot.”

“Gah!”

The next time we took both cars out at once, Husband offered to lead. After a short distance, I realised Husband’s method of navigation is according to whichever traffic light happens to be green at any given intersection. No idea where the fuck he’s going, bless him. (In case you were wondering, I still love him. Can’t explain it.)

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