In some little village off the M5 she took off 3 car door mirrors. It couldn’t have been easy driving on the wrong side of the road. I’m not sure I would have done any better, but as the passenger on that left side, my knuckles grew snow white with the first impact. I cried out in hysterical laughter at the second. Was incredulous at the third.
“What?” she cried. She didn’t feel that!? A little further down the road came the second. Then the third. It was not a very wide road, and cars were parked on both sides.
“Marcy!” I yelled. “You just took off those car mirrors!“
“You just HIT those cars!!! THREE CARS!!”
“Oh. Well. My god look at how all these cars are parked! The road isn’t wide enough to begin with, and I mean…these cars are just begging to get hit.“
Begging to get hit. Begging to get hit! That statement was every bit as rich as her claim to the rental car agency that she could drive a manual transmission. “No problem”, she said. “I’ve driven manuals other friends have had.” Much as I loved Marcy she had a way of overestimating some of her abilities. So each time she lifted her foot off the brake of the shiny black luxury Ford sedan, we got one inch closer to the garage’s concrete wall. Declining the rental car insurance was probably not such a smart idea.
“I can’t figure out this damn shifter. It just won’t move.“
I retrieved the agent who helped us with the car paperwork, and he showed my friend that one must lift up and then slide the shifter to desired gear, all while maneuvering the pedals. Since I don’t have a clue on how to drive a manual transmission auto this was educational for me, even if it didn’t make me helpful in the endeavour. After the lesson we moseyed on. Really moseyed. The Ford kept stalling. Three times before we even reached the gate to the outside world. Once the gate lifted and we began the ascent to the street, smoke billowed out from under the hood, and we stopped moving even though Marcy continued to press the gas pedal. Metal grinding. An awful sound. Smoke entered the car from the heating ducts. Out the back window I saw three men running towards us, waving their hands in the air.
“Shut the car off!“
“Miss, please shut the car off.” Said guy number three, after lifting the hood. “It’s likely the engine is going to catch on fire. We need to you to get out of the car and remove your belongings.“
Two and half hours later, after my napping on top of our bags in the garage and after Marcy had signed another stack of paperwork, we drove off in another black shiny Ford sedan. Only this one was an automatic. I plugged in the GPS which had been loaded and programmed with England maps. It was a little after noon time. Surely we would arrive at our B & B in the tiny town of Dinder, on the west side of the country by dinnertime. But after two hours of driving past fields of brilliant yellow and emerald green, and more stone walls and sheep than I had ever seen, I noticed that the routes and street names on the GPS were NOT matching up to those we passed. Marcy pulled in to a small convenience store gas station so I could verify our location, and gave me instructions on what to bring her for snack and drink.
“Excuse me, I’m hoping you can help me. I’m trying to get to Dinder, near Bath….I’ve got a GPS, but I’m just not sure it’s working right.”
“Dinder. Dinder. Well, I don’t know as if I’ve ever heard of Dinder, Miss, but if you’re trying to get anywhere near Bath you’re right clear on the other side of the country.”
Silence. Muffled laughter and a stifled smile peeking out from underneath this man’s greying, receding hair. And pity. What pity. I just wanted to cry.
He came back with an atlas which I bought for 2 pounds, and then showed me exactly where I was relative to where I should be. Instead of being on the west near Bath, and a hop, skip, and jump from Wales….we were actually almost on top of Cambridge. Which meant that we had at least four hours of driving before we would reach our destination.
I returned to the car stiff with the kind of fury that only a person who has just wasted two hours of travel time on account of a worthless techno gadget can be, and handed Marcy her crisps and bottled water. Four hours of me white knuckling the atlas and the car door handle as Marcy veered into the left lane of traffic narrowly escaping collisions with oncoming vehicles or hitting the road curb. Four hours of roadside pee spots when the roundabouts turned us wrong. (Roundabouts, FYI, deserve a story of their own….)
How could I do four hours of this? I pondered a lot about the fact that England has raised curbs on both sides of the road, even on major highways. My heart missed beats every time we hit one or sailed over one. Perhaps it was meant to have the same effect on drivers like Marcy. But I can tell you, she was just oblivious.
How is it that a person can’t FEEL when they have hit a car!?
In all, three cars were hit on the drive. Three mirrors lost, rolling out in the middle of the road. Three people who, next morning went out to their autos and probably said “what the FUCK!” I’m guessing there had to be scratched paint and dents of various sizes, too.
At 9PM, we finally passed through Shepton-Mallet, and ended up in another small town whose name I can’t remember–right outside a fish and chips take-a-way. After candy bars and crunchy hula hoops, that fresh fried fish and chips with vinegar was like manna from heaven. We were also lucky enough to run into an older gentleman who happened to be friends with the owner of the B & B we were staying at. Marcy used his cell phone to call the B & B, and let them know that our traveling had been fraught with difficulties but we would soon be on our way.
After a long drive up a dirt road with tall hedges on both sides, we arrived at Crapnell Farm. And I was only too relieved to get out of that car for the night. It was taking up two spots in the driveway rather than one. And because it was dark I could only feel the dents on my side of the car.
*This is a piece I wrote in 2014, a year after the fact. Marcy is a pseudonym to protect the not so innocent.