One More First

Couples share so many special moments together. A first date. A first kiss. The first night spent together. The first vacation together. The first car accident together.

It happened over the weekend. We were in the car park of the large home improvement store Masters. A black BMW pulled in between two parking spots to our left. Then he quickly backed out, reversing without looking, and crashed right into us.

In Miami, this would have been a minor theater production. At best, the police would have been called and it would have been just a quiet 2-hour waiting event. At worst, there would have been screaming in various languages, a fake injury, and possibly a shooting.

Here in Melbourne, it was a civil exchange of personal and vehicle information. Since there were no injuries, the police were not called. There were witnesses and the family patriarch took no issue in giving Theo his contact details. Theo called his insurance company, which gave him no hassle at all and recommended a shop to take the car to.  The repair estimate is $1900, which the insurance company will pay, and the work will take a few days.

Driving in Miami is hard. It consistently ranks among America’s worst driving cities. I think it’s because Miami has people from many countries and they all bring their various driving habits. For some, red lights and stop signs are mere suggestions. The wealthy superwows, who consider themselves more important than everyone else, speed and cut you off as they text and talk over their mobile phones. And everyone appears to be in survival mode. Everyone has to get there first, wherever ‘there’ is. Ha ha; I got to the red light before you did.

Melburnians seem to drive better than Miami drivers, but not by much. They’re generally not as aggressive as Miami drivers and I’ve observed fewer people on their mobiles, but young drivers still drive too fast, elderly drivers still confuse the gas pedal for the brakes, and in the last few days we narrowly escaped several careless drivers reversing without having looked behind them. One finally got us.

Driving in Melbourne feels more nuanced than driving in Miami. First there’s the issue of driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car. And then it’s an obstacle course – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars parked in the driving lane. This last one annoys me the most. If you can park there, it’s a parking lane; not a driving lane! But in Melbourne, it’s a parking lane and a driving lane. That means you are constantly changing lanes or veering slightly over in order to go around parked cars in your driving lane. Melbourne has also hook turns. Basically, this is where you turn right from the left hand lane. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is.

Nevertheless I am looking forward to driving more. Melbourne has excellent public transportation, but the truth is, I don’t like public transportation. I’m not accustomed to it and I don’t consider it a safe way for a woman alone to travel at night. I look forward to the day I’ll be driving Theo around in my swanky little mini-car.

About the image: Peak hour traffic in Melbourne by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, CC-BY-NC.

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