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The Joy of Driving

Feb
2
2006

So we’ve moved to Spain and the beauty of living in another country is the possibility to stretch yourself, to learn new things, to explore new worlds, to make the commonplace a challenge, etc., etc. Climb every mountain, and so on. And all this new culture stuff is great, and I of course am the number one fan of multicultural exploration.
However. The best starting point for cross-border learning, I’d say, is a country’s wines (did anyone else drink those cheap Bulgarian reds when they were popular a few years back? But can you name the country’s capital?). And moving on from wine, this multi-culti stuff is welcome to continue right on through other areas of cultural differences. Up to the point where it becomes a pain in the ass for me personally.
Let’s talk about cars, for example. As regular readers might remember, we had decided to sell my beloved minivan, rather than bring it across the sea to face an uncertain future, and we did indeed sell it. Now we’re looking for a new car. But, and let’s blame this – rightly or wrongly – on being a girl from the suburbs, I’ve never learned to drive a stick shift.
In Spain, to quote a friend, the only people who use automatic cars are disabled drivers and Americans. Seriously.
Although there are automatics available, they’re much more expensive to rent, somewhat more expensive to buy, and fairly uncommon. All of which means at some point I’ll have to learn with difficulty at this advanced age what would have been much easier to learn as a teenager. Because as a mildly nutso mommy, I now view it as a safety issue. What if I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere some day with only a manual shift car and THE KIDS HAVE TO GET TO THE HOSPITAL? Or McDonalds or something?
Although I’ve lived in Spain before, I didn’t worry about driving then. That was not only pre-child (no small people or large amounts of groceries to cart around), but I also lived in the center of Madrid, with city services all around and subways, buses and my own two feet at my command. (Just try commanding a small person’s feet to do anything. Especially when you’re in a hurry. Ha!) This time around we’re, you guessed it, in the suburbs of Valencia, at least while we look for permanent digs.
Yes, yes, it’s good to stretch your boundaries, etc. Please see the second paragraph. And I know those of you who are committed stick-shift drivers will say you have more control, it’s more fun to drive, it’s better on the engine, your sex life improves, and so on. All these manual shifts are another reason Europeans don’t snack as much when driving (and doubtless related to why they’re way behind in drink holder development), and I don’t know how you drive without a little drink or snackie every so often.
We won’t discuss Spanish traffic circle madness today. If you’d like to pursue that topic, go to the bumper cars ride at your local amusement park. Squint; imagine all the cars about twice the size; the children unsmiling, smoking and with less well developed anger management skills. There you have it – a Spanish traffic circle. Happy trails.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:30 PM | Permalink

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