This week my word of the week just has to be driving. I didn't pick up my new car until Wednesday but I had the wobbles on Tuesday. The last car that I drove I had after not driving for two years and I thought that was nerve wracking, but this was much, much worse. This time I would be driving without using my feet.
I picked up the car and was surprised, and dismayed when I was told there would be no lesson on how to use the hand controls. I was given a booklet to use and a number to call for a driving instructor. Then sent on my way, in a new car, not knowing what on earth I was doing, all the way home.
The journey home was about three miles and I honestly don't know how I did it, but I did. I've watched tons of You Tube videos and talked to other hand drivers so I wasn't completely in the dark, but it's different watching a video to doing it yourself. When I got home, safely, I cried.
My first instincts where to send it back.
Then I thought, well the only way to learn is to keep trying. It's not that I couldn't drive it, I managed to get it home after all, it was just how different it all felt. I read my booklet, sat in the car and familiarised myself with everything. I adjusted my seat and my mirrors until I felt comfortable, then I started the engine and played around with the controls, like it said in the booklet. Then I drove around our grove, and again, and again. The neighbours were beginning to get a bit wary of me driving around like that but it was a brilliant way of just getting used to how things worked. I felt more confident so went off for a little drive around the neighbourhood, rather than just our grove. I managed fairly well, at least my steering was good even if I wasn't really getting up to speed.
The next day I decided to venture a little further, first up was the garage as I was running out of petrol. When we pulled up at the pump it felt weird giving my OH my card to pay, before, he would fill my car up while I went in to pay. I can't do that anymore so he has to do both. I did notice that the pumps had instructions for disabled users on how to get help to fill up. I've used this garage hundreds of times but never noticed these signs before, isn't it strange how you only see what's relevant to you?
Then we went off to visit OH's mum which is about four and half miles away, including a busy shopping town and a duel carriageway. This is when I decided that I had to get a little speed up and I managed quite well despite my nerves. It's difficult when you are doing something completely unfamiliar in a familiar surrounding. My right foot was becoming very agitated and reaching out for the accelerator, but I know it won't work (my foot not the accelerator) so I just had to keep it back as far as I could. There was one incident after I'd stopped the car to park and the car engine was revving, my OH asked what I was doing and I looked down and it was my foot! I hadn't even felt it. After that I kept it tucked back under the seat, if it becomes a problem I can have the pedals flipped up, but I'm hoping that OH will be able to drive it when he passes his test (next month!) My left foot is no problem because it's bloomin' useless, it just stays in place immobile.
I came home the long way, facing traffic lights, moving into slow moving traffic from a side road, going around several islands and another duel carriageway. By the time I got home I felt totally at ease with the hand controls, but I was still getting used to the car. I've not driven an automatic before and it 'feels' quite different. Also, I'm still learning how the car drives, how fast it accelerates and how strong the breaks are...yes, watch out for wiplash! Overall, I'm feeling much happier and confident...freedom awaits.
For those not familiar, here is my steering wheel.
It's not the best shot but you can see the 'knob' I have so I can steer one handed. This is vital because my right hand is in constant use. Look at the right hand side of the steering wheel and you may be able to notice a metal bar, this is my accelerator and brake. At the end of the bar lying just under the steering wheel is a foam handle which I have to push to brake and pull to accelerate...that alone is hard to get used to. Also on the handle is a little switch which works my indicators...but they don't turn off automatically. When cruising at speed, like on a motorway, I can hook my thumb over the steering wheel for comfort while holding the accelerator, it really is comfortable doing this, but no so good when you have to keep steering. The pedals still work as a normal automatic car. apart from the knob and the bar you can't see that the car is adapted, it's quite discreet.
One thing I have noticed though, it's hard to wave to someone in another car who has given way to you. To do this I would have to take my hand off the steering wheel, when I'm working it one handed or take my hand off the accelerator, both quite impossible. I'm going to have to perfect a big nod and grin instead.
I'm also having trouble with the windscreen wipers and ordinary indicators, but I'm sure I'll get used to those in time. At least I have my little indicator switch for now.