Monday, August 18, 2008

First Drive: The Path To My First Car, Part 7

It has been about 5 years since the last time I went behind the wheels. That was in my provincial hometown in the Philippines. In the province, you don’t really need an automobile to go around.

We lived in the city center where everything was within walking distance. The only place I ever needed transportation going to was work. But for that, I just use public transportation which was way more practical.

My car buying process is steadily progressing. There are now several dealers competing for my business. Since having my own car is imminent, I decided to rent a car for a few days to get a feel of the wheel.

Considering my driving history, I met several bumps on the road. Some funny, others dangerous.

It was about 5 in the afternoon when I finally sat on the driver’s seat and shifted the gear to drive. Getting out of the rental car lot was already a challenge.

I drove onto the wrong lane with several cars queued up behind me. I had to ask all of them to back up so I can maneuver to the correct lane, which also meant I had to cut in line. Sheesh.

The lady driver behind me had the left side of her face resting on her left palm, her left elbow resting on the car door, and annoyance strewn across her face.

The lanes were pretty narrow I was afraid the car will hit the spike posts. As I checked my sides while maneuvering towards the correct lane, I caught the eye of the rental car agent who attended to me.

His face was aghast at the way I was handling the car. I could only manage to flash him a sheepish grin and never looked back.

From out of the basement parking, the afternoon sun blinded my sight temporarily and I suddenly found myself in a deluge of cars in constant flux in the middle of downtown L.A. I cannot recall how I managed to squeeze into the flow.

The car was also making a strange noise each time I floored the pedal. It turns out the emergency brake handle had been on all that time! Goodness! My anxiety got the better of me that I failed to make a turn at one point.

The first stop had to be a safe place - home. Later in the evening, I decided to buy groceries. I braved the streets of my neighborhood with a printed MapQuest itinerary on hand.

As I was driving home from the mini mall, I realized my headlights had been off since I left home! OMG! Way to go for first time night driving.

Anxiety tapers off gradually with each mile conquered and the car driving closer to home. But as fate would have it, my navigating skills will have to be put to the test as several roads in the itinerary were closed for ongoing construction. Great!

I was going around in circles in the ghettoes of East L.A. in the middle of the night. But I made it home. So pat myself on the back I did. Whew.

The next night, I decided to hit the freeway. A good friend lent me her navigation unit which was a great help. Another friend lent me his time as he accompanied me in my battle with L.A. highways.

It was there that I made dangerous maneuvers. To make the long story short, I will not be hitting the freeway so soon.

Under the light of the full moon, he & I made it to as far as LAX and back. I realized that more than his time, he trusted me with his life. So I rewarded him with dinner and a movie. Yes, that’s how much his life is worth. Hehehe. Just kidding.

Freshly wounded from my battle with the freeway, I rerouted the GPS to use side streets on my way home. Someone once told me freeways are actually safer than side roads. That statement was to be proven true in a matter of minutes.

From out of nowhere a dog wandered into the lane and almost onto the middle of the road. With a swift glance at my sideview mirror and my blind spot, I made a sharp maneuver to avoid the little pest.

More than the dog, I was fuming at its owners who left it unleashed and unattended. If there was a car on my side and I couldn’t step on the break safely, I would have had to run over the poor pooch.

The third night sent me driving alone to several points. Nothing untoward, just some minor blunders. There's 3 more days before I return the car. So far, it had a good run and I got quite a good feel of the wheel.

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