An early, initial survey of the traffic, the road system and the driving habits in KL convinced me that driving here was not going to be an option for me, but now that we actually have a vehicle, I may just revisit that decision. And, there is nothing like necessity to stretch a person.
On Friday, Steve needed to be at the school at 4 a.m to embark on a staff trip and cabs at that hour are pretty unpredictable. We decided that he would simply park the car at the school and I would figure out how to get it home later in the day either by driving it myself or by getting a friend to drive it home. Always up for a challenge, I determined to drive the thing myself! This in spite of the fact that I have never driven in Malaysia, never driven on the right hand side of the road and never driven a right hand drive vehicle.
Once the morning rush hour was over, I headed up to the school for the first challenge, that of actually finding the car. I had seen it once in our parking garage but it was sort of dark and I had not yet even sat in it. Armed with the licence plate number for verification, I located it fairly easily once I realized that it is actually green not blue. First things first: come up with a ruse to make it appear that I actually intended to get in the passenger side before going around to the driver’s door.
It feels weird to operate the gear shift with the left hand and to feel cars swooshing by on the right hand side but I can do this. The next challenge is that the car is facing in the wrong direction so I have to figure out how to turn around without going into the chaos that is the main road around the college. This means a very tight u-turn with vehicles double parked on the other side of the street, but that is routine driving here. Then a right hand turn crossing a lane of traffic which is just strange to me. I am directionally challenged, in fact I can’t tell left from right so I rely on symbols and patterns to determine direction. For example, left is the hand with my wedding ring on it and a left hand turn is one in which you cross the lane of traffic. Now I am turning right, crossing a lane of traffic which is coming at me in the wrong direction.
A few straight forward blocks until I reach the dreaded Frogger corner into SS12 where six lanes of traffic converge to continue through, turn left or merge to a right turn or the inevitable u-turn at incredible speeds, using the traffic lights as a suggestion only. I just have to cross one lane, guessing whether the on coming traffic is turning, without the benefit of turn signals, or intending on barrelling through the light and then I can complete a right hand turn from the center lane. This I have to do with the windshield wipers going, in perfectly dry weather, because the turn indicator lever is of course on the opposite side. I try the local strategy, which is: do what you intend to do, don’t deliberately drive into another vehicle and trust the other drivers not to deliberately drive into you. This usually works except for the motorcycles, they are the wild card and anything is possible with them as is reflected in the road death statistics.
Our main road is a relatively straight stretch on which the challenge is one of manoeuvering around heavy hospital and hotel traffic, parked vehicles, endless construction projects, massive speed bumps and several guard houses with sporadic security checks. Once safely into our condo compound there remains only the challenge of the eight narrow ramps up to our parking spot on the fourth floor. Here I really come to grips with the fact that the unoccupied passenger side of the car is actually on the left and seems to be totally independent of the vehicle as I know it. I verbally thank God that the car is small enough to fit through these tight spaces and I can finally tuck it away in our tiny little parking spot.
Yes, I am definitely going to be able to learn to do this.