Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rules of the road

A few words on cars.

There is nothing, nothing, nothing that can train my
brain away from 24 years of practice looking left,
then right, then left when crossing the road. Not
even the eminent danger of getting hit by a car coming
at you (on the right, mind you) as you cross the
street. I am trying and trying and trying to
remember to look right first, but I just can't do it.

When I got to Auckland, the first thing Diane said to
me once we got out of the airport car park was, 'So,
how's driving on the other side of the road treating
you?' To be honest, it doesn't seem odd at all. The
odd thing is sitting, as a passenger, on the left side
of the car. Or getting into the back seat, looking
forward to the left side of the car, and not seeing a
steering wheel. But the most weirdest thing is seeing
a car drive up the street with only one person in it,
and that person is sitting on the right side. It's
like the twilight zone.

But, I am proud to say that I have officially learned
to cross busy streets by myself, without the help of a
traffic light at an intersection. This has opened up
a world of possibilities, as now I can cross from one
side of the street to a shop on the other without
having to traverse the whole block and back. Oh joy.

A couple of weeks ago, my flat mate Joy was on holiday
to the South Island to spend time with her family.
Because she is kind, she left her car for me to
practice driving. It is a very run-down car, but it
has four wheels, can take you from one place to the
next, and is perfect for Wendy to practice driving on.
I had planned on going out to practice driving with
one of my flat mates during the weekend, but that plan
never panned out. So, Monday morning following that
weekend, I snuck out of the house when everyone had
gone to work, and attempted to take my first road
test, by myself. Then, when I opened the car and
tried to start it, the car was dead. So my driving
lesson had to wait. Damn.

Skip to a week later. Joy is talking about selling
her car. I asked her for how much she would sell it.
She said $500. I said, 'Sold!' Except, that I have
come to find that people around here say they are
going to do things, but they don't. So I won't hold
up my hopes real high. And I will keep you posted...

Licensing and registration here is different as well.
Cars are sold with license plates already on them, and
they stay with the car through all of it's owners. To
change the name on the title, you just re-register the
car to your name. Or something like that. Except I
don't know how that would work with personalized
plates and all. When (if) I get a car here, I am
going to look into getting some nice personalized
Hawkeye license plates. Or, I'll get some regular
personalized plates that say 'American' on them, which
will invite random and violent acts of rear-ending or
vandalization, I am sure.

The license plates are those cute little rectangle and
slim ones, like in Europe, and I am still trying to
think about how I am going to get one to bring home.
I mean, whose car is going to have one go missing.

Insurance is an option, which most Kiwis turn down.
So, most of the drivers on the road (especially
international ones) are uninsured, which is perfectly
acceptable and legal. As a side note to that, all
cars are required to have a fitness update every six
months. It's mandatory, and you can be fined if you
don't. It is similar to Iowa registration, only
instead of just paying to have it registered to you
for another year, you have to have a full check-up,
and fix any problems that would otherwise cause the
car to be unfit for the road. For the warranty, all
cars have these huge stickers in their windows that
say 'Warrant of fitness until 24/1/2007'. Of course,
those numbers translate to 1/24/2007, which is what I
am sure they meant to write in the first place.

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