Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baby Steps

Small victories in life can sometimes be savored as long as the large ones.

I backpacked around Thailand and Cambodia by myself for 6 weeks and was not scared. But it scares me to drive in the city here. How can that be? The freeway isn't so bad, you just have two lanes to deal with and go straight. But the cities have all these weird lanes, arrows on the ground, flashing lights and people are turning and going wherever there is an opening, not necessarily where there is a lane. I'm sure they have traffic rules, but they are what I might call iffy. Iffy in the sense of; it's iffy if they actually have rules, it's iffy if anyone knows what they really are, and it's iffy that people are going to actually follow them if in fact they do exist.

Well today I was brave. I drove the car to Auchan, purchased groceries and drove home. In the US this would be no big deal. Here, I feel like I have climbed Mt. Hood (again). I set out a little after 12:30 in hopes that most people would be at work and not on the road. My first hurdle was getting the car out of the garage. We have a cute little 1995 white Peugeot fella that has a brand new radiator. I think at first I didn't want to drive because I was scared the little guy would blow up and I would be stranded without Cyr in the country and not being able to speak the language. Now I feel confident about the new car parts and can bring a dictionary to help out if I need help. Back to "Mr. P" as I will from now on refer to our Peugeot. Mr. P also has a code thing you have to punch in order for the key to turn. Not that Mr. P isn't something that everyone would want, but I guess at one time this was a hot little guy and a little added security was needed to make sure he would be there in the mornings and not in the hands of some hardened Peugeot steeling criminal. I felt a rush of relief as I entered the correct code and the light went off. After getting the nerve to go I would hate to not be able to start the damn thing.

So I set off to Auchan without the GPS plugged in. I was feeling especially brave. Actually, I didn't know how to find Auchan on the stupid thing and didn't want to risk loosing my nerve while fiddling with it. They are doing construction on the main road so I had to ride the sort of feeder thing, but I only made 4 wrong turns the whole way! Let's all give a shout out to the turning radius of Mr. P! I have seen Auchan on the way to Brugge and Amsterdam, so I knew which way it was and that it was not too far. Once I found it (by following the signs to Quick Burger) I parked and commenced shopping. It was so nice to just buy as much as I needed and not have to worry about being able to carry everything on the tram and to the apartment. Grocery shopping is one of the things I miss about the US. You can go any time you want, even after 7pm or on a Sunday (gasp). You park your car in a parking lot in front of the store, you wheel your cart to the car and then drive to your home with all your bags in the car. Here it's more likely that you shop at a local store (which I do love I have to admit) but you only buy what you can carry. I needed water and beer and those things are heavy! Not to mention that toilet paper and paper towels are really bulky and take up most of the room in your bags.

It really wasn't that exciting, no wrecks, no close calls. On the way home I used the GPS, I just had to hit "HOME" and it very obediently showed me the way. There was a bit of a traffic jam as some truck had lost it's load, but we all drove by slowly and went on our way. It took me about 20 minutes to get there because of the wrong turns, and about 25 to get home because of the traffic and closed main road. I think it should be about a 15 minute drive though. Not bad. I will be doing this every few weeks I think. I like the exercise of going to the market, but it's nice to stock up on the necessities every now and then. If I wait for Cyr then we have to go on a Saturday when the entire country of France and the closer part of Belgium is also shopping at Auchan.

So I guess it was not very exciting, but when I pulled into our parking garage I had to do a little dance after I got out of the car. I didn't even care that I had to make two trips for all the bags or that our apartment is one house over from our parking garage. It's another great day here and I could use the exercise. Now if I could only learn that Passe Compose tense I might be able to conquer the world this evening.


Samantha said...

Oh my dear, I remember that day well - my first solo driving trip to the grocery store. Congratulations, it is indeed the baby steps that count!

Cyr said...

Mr P... Seriously, could you ever find a worse name for the car? :p
Good job Baby!

Susan and Simon said...

Huge congratulatory hug !!
I know exactly what you mean about the way people approach driving in Lille - on some of the pedestrianised streets in the centre I am sure the direction of travel reverses every so often in response to some unexplained rule.
I dislike driving and have always been too frightened to drive in the UK, but I am slowly getting back into it in rural France, after over 10 years of not driving, so I can relate to your sense of achievement.
And why do people waste their Saturdays at the supermarket when they are open on weekday evenings?
Get an old lady style 'canvas' shopping trolley for the market and local shops - I've done it this way for years. Simon won't be seen in public with it though, but you can get some pretty funky ones these days that are definitely not old lady material.

J said...

OK, you're enough like me that I can't picture you not off in the car going somewhere. I would probably wither away if I wasn't driving. But, I have seen the French driving method and it is more like bumper cars than actual driving.

Oh, and since since Mr. P is a Peugeot, wouldn't that make him "Monsieur P"?

Andromeda said...

Wow good job! The most I have driven solo is up and down the street! And here I am at home navigating 5 lanes no problem. Sigh.

Susan said...

Samantha - Thanks! I feel so French now...

Cyr - have had this car for YEARS and never named it. As J said, we can call it "Monsier P", that sounds a little better. Right!? Oh, I love you! I get to name the kids too you know, watch out...

Susan - you are so right...I need a rolly thingy. I will have to look around for a cool one. ;-)

J - yeah, you are right about that, I actually have driven to Belgium twice and don't worry about it. It's just in in town driving where it's all a-holes and elbows out there.

Andromeda - You can do it girl! Just go on a sunny day during the week. I so know how you feel though, the big freeway is not a problem, it's the darn three lane, two way with some kind of turning area that is so scary. Not to mention all the damn pedestrians. Give it a try then let me know how it goes!

Le Tigre in France said...

Well done! Driving in France is my greatest fear so I officially consider you fearless!

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