Monday, December 7, 2015

Driving Schooled!

Italian Horsepower
In Italy pedestrians rule!   I have just finished my second “in the car” driving lesson.  I have been corrected, during my lesson, absolutely stopping for people who are standing at a crossing without a street light.   Even if they are standing there smoking a cigarette, without intention of going across, I must stop for them.  

Driving the streets of Padova with my expert instructor has been as fun as a dental visit.   My armchair expert instructor has not been greatly impressed.   I am a defensive driver, while Italians are more aggressive.   Wrecked autos in junk yards here show mostly front end collisions.  Italians don’t stop at stop signs, I do.   My greatest flaw is forgetting to signal with my blinker when I exit a roundabout, the circular intersection that saves Italy from purchasing super expensive street lights.   Today I was forced  to drive through about 30 roundabouts.  It is confusing when I appear to be going in a straight direction across to the other side, yet must use the blinker to exit the roundabout.  I have also been schooled to start my blinker 150 meters before entering a highway. 

The discouraging news is that before driving the exam car the proctor will ask me questions about the automobile.  I must learn to read the numbers on the side of a tire and interpret what they mean, the date of manufacture, sizes, etc.  I will also have to explain things under the hood, and the different lights, all this in Italian.  I am told that I will have to explain how I adjust the seat and mirrors to exactness.  My wrists must be over the top of the steering wheel to be exact, the level of mirrors, and the height of head rest. 

Adjusting the seat is difficult for me as this is a small Italian car, I am not sure this size is found in good old US of A.  Italians are generally smaller people and cars are made for them specifically.    I have set the seat at its lowest level to the floor, yet my head is still pokes above the roof.  The fact that this is a car with an open roof saves me.  Using the rule of measure that my wrists should be across the steering wheel with my back against the seat,  my stomach is 4 inches from the steering wheel.  When finished adjusting myself and seat belt buckled, I am, basically, a sardine.  Total comedy!!  I pray that the air bags will not be needed.

Driving 2 hours around in the centre of Padova, traffic is intense.  Lanes are smaller, and I have to concentrate on driving.  There is no talking, the atmosphere in the car is like a heavy wind.  My comprehension holds me as I drive, and I see a sign, for 30 kilometres an hour, yet I am told to speed up.  I explain that there was a sign 20 meters back that said 30.  He explains that it was only for the speed bump.  My frustration level raises.  BTW You have no idea how many signs are on Italian roads!

We stop in a slotted parking lot and the instructor explains that on the test there will be a chance to display my  skills by backing and turning into a parking place.   (Not parallel)  He tells me to count two spaces before the slot and align my steering wheel with the third line.  Then, while turning the steering wheel, l back up and slip myself between two cars.  (Italians like backing into parking places where they might not be able to leave easily).  (This skill NOT in the driving manual or law, by the way)  But I do as told, and I end up just a bit over the line.   My problem is that looking backwards by turning my head in this tiny car does not allow any vision to the rear.   The mirrors are better for me, but I am not allowed to use them as the examiner will be  looking at my head movement.  This manoeuvre was practiced later in my village with my own car.

My other most eligible to fail habit is not using the “correct” gear when nearing the roundabout, or when entering the highway.  Italians are really into gearing according to rpm, I am not. 

 At the end of the 2 hours, I park the car and I receive the analysis with the anticipation of biopsy news.  With the face of a pall bearer  he says, “it was better this time,” then nothing more.  I identify with Rodney Dangerfield, but   there will be one more 2 hour lesson next week to improve. 

Scroll Down to read my other blogs, in particular the driving test.  

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