Sunday, September 18, 2011

That brand new vomit smell

On Saturday morning, usually a day for sleeping in, Sapphire woke up early and excitedly. "It's today, isn't it?"

Love Chunks was smiling, the glint in his baby blues reflecting the emotions of his daughter.

I felt nauseaus and my Rexona, at 8am, was already letting me down.

In the fog and drizzle we took the numbers 14 and 17 trams past Plain Palais to the Peugeot dealership, paperwork in hand.

"Voila!" Marco whipped off a satin blue sheet covering our car. Our brand new car.

To all you European dwellers, I guess a Peugeot is what a Holden is to us Australians - no big deal. But to these particular Australians, it is an enormously huge deal.

Firstly, neither Love Chunks or myself - separately and together - have ever owned a brand new car. He and I both had cars from the early seventies during the 1980s and bought a nineties car that lasted all through the 2000s. We were both of the view that new was a waste of money, that you blew a couple of grand the second you drove it off the lot and, most of all, we simply couldn't afford one. Here though, with a UN-tax free deal and a good loan rate, we decided to live on the edge and go for it.

Secondly, the Peugeot is a manual, like most vehicles seem to be here. I learned how to drive on a manual (in 1985, or 'were TVs in just black and white then' according to my daughter's concept of ancient history) and my cars Rodney the 1971 Renault and Sucked Crunchie the 1973 burnt orange volvo were both manual drives. However during most of the nineties and all of the noughties I enjoyed the restful, no-use-for-the-left-hand carefree slackness of an automatic. Namely, Maggie the Magna, recently sold in May for the princely sum of $600.

Thirdly, it's a left hand drive designed to be driven on the utterly weirdly wrong - sorry, right - side of the road.

Fourthly, we don't have one of those fandangled Tom-Tom sat nav dooflanger thingies; merely LC's insistence that I direct us back home "but not through the city" using his iPad.

Five minutes later, we were stuck in the city; the wipers turning on every time LC turned a corner and my body slip-sliding around on the vinyl seats due to an unpalatable combination of sweat, anxiety and panic.

By the time we arrived home, Mr Migraine had set up residence behind my left eyeball and with an audible sigh of relief LC backed the car into our designated parking spot in the basement.

Sapphire had been uncharacteristically quiet during the unintendedly lengthy journey home but now decided it was the right moment to pipe up with, "Well, why don't we just leave it down here and just sit in it every now and then?"

I was all for it and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, clutching at my head.

However today we were up early again. Geneva is quite literally dead on a Sunday with the original concept of the Sabbath taken very, very seriously. No clinking of glass bottles in the public recycling depots; no washing machines to be turned on in apartment blocks and no active gardening to be undertaken. In fact, technically all of those activities are illegal on a Sunday.

Unless church dominates your plans it seems as though you're expected to stay inside wearing felt slippers communicating only via sign language and mime for the entire day.

"It's the perfect time to get used to driving," LC decided.

Quite wisely, as it turned out. Very little traffic, drizzly weather that might have put some casual drivers off and us in no hurry to be any specific place at any specific time.

We drove around the entire boundary of Lac Leman - Switzerland, France and back again, with stops for coffee at a boulangerie and lunch at a tiny Port near Evian. The only actual Evian water tasted by any of us was in the puddles that Milly drank from as we walked.

"It drives so smoothly," LC observed.
"It's like you've always driven on the right hand side of the road, Dad," Sapphire said with genuine admiration.

"Wanna have a go, Kath?"

"NO no no no no no I'm not ready yet the car is too new, too shiny, too pretty, too dangerous I'll get us lost or put a big dent in it besides it's getting dark out and my head is still sore and No no no no no no no...."
"It's only two thirty-----"

Maybe tomorrow, on my own, I'll take it for an Old Lady Spin around the car park. Maybe.


Jackie K said...

Fun! I say let go of that leftist guilt over your shiny new car - and enjoy!
Know what you mean though - I got my first brand new car a few years ago (and had to trade it in for a second hand commodore when the twins came 8 months later, so that was the end of my new car experience), and for the first week I was terrified I was going to crash it.

Pandora Behr said...

Kath, suck it up and enjoy! Driving a manual is like riding a bike - and Alphonse or Tanquy or whatever bad French name you call him, will do brilliantly. But I know what it's like thinking you're gonna crash the new car - just been through it. Enjoy the freedom. (Oh, and you will continue to indicate with the windscreen wipers for a long time - just less freqently - laugh about it like every other expat...)

The Elephant's Child said...

Scary stuff. New car, manual and driving on the wrong side of the road all at once. Whoa! Does Milly get to ride in the new car? Silly question. Of course she does.

Vanessa said...

ooohhh la la, a brand new car. Enjoy!Your day of exploring sounded wonderful. Just throw France into a sentence and I am green with envy x

Kari said...

Oh gosh, I'd be with you in putting it off for as long as possible! I get anxious driving my partner's manual car in Australia, and that's on familiar roads and the 'right' side of the road :)

I'm sure it will be fine once you get going though - and enjoy the newness!

Cat J B said...

Ooooh, enjoy it! Hehe, hubby and I have never owned a new car either, in fact right now, our main transport.....16 yrs old and 200 on the clock, is in the shop....again. I see that one going to heaven soon. Luckily, hubby's away so I can still drive the 10 yr old car. I'm with you, I'd be too darn scared to drive a brand spanker. Maybe once I don't have kids in the back distracting me and I can actually concentrate on the road...

Had to laugh at Sapphire's comment!

Andrew said...

'They hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as they admired it through the door, with air of regal pride,
The grinning car salesman said, "Excuse me, can you drive?"'

Just keep your distance from the lake, hey.

coronaryrn said...

You will get the hang of it! Hang in there! I am busy hopping around this evening...follow back please @ and on facebook @ Thanks!

franzy said...

"An Peugeot"???


Also - massive congrats on the new car. It's like having a new child, but more fun. I assume.

My advice for getting used to driving on the wrong side: At every single corner, consciously think "And now I'm going to kill myself! Hooray! Into the oncoming traffic! WHOOSH!!"
And you will be safe and fine.

Jayne said...

Buy yourself some floaties.
Just in case.
Or stay in bed.

Kath Lockett said...

Jackie, I'll certainly try to enjoy it although it might take three years because that's the 'newest' car I owned before this one.

Pandora, we're temporarily calling him (LC insists it's a 'he' but I think he just feels a tad outnumbered in our female-centred family) Pierre, but Sapphire's still not sure about that one.

EC, of course she does - the back bit folds out so that she can snooze or sit up. It's already covered in orange dog hairs and muddy footprints.

Vanessa, we were even allowed to have Milly come inside with us in the boulangerie and again in the restaurant at Evian. She was one of three dogs there.

Kari I'm hoping that reverting back to manual is like 'riding a bike' but at the moment it feels like another extra 'challenge' to the ones of being on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road.... *gulp*

CatJB - our last car (Maggie the Magna) was fifteen and was probably going to go to heaven later this year if we'd stayed in Australia.

Andrew, I have no intentions of driving anywhere near the lake. Or freeways, or busy roads, or where lots of people are on the footpaths or.....

Thanks Coro - I'll check you out soon

Franzy that helps..... (shakily wipes more sweat off her brow)....

Jayne I like both of those suggestioins!

Red Nomad OZ said...

Just don't forget which side of the road to drive on when you return to OZ!!! In the meantime, maybe a sign for the window saying 'We're from OZ' would buy you a bit of goodwill??!!

Kath Lockett said...

Red, you could be right. Instead of 'Baby on Board' it should be 'Left Hand Side of the Road Driver on Board: please be careful AND kind' might help?

River said...

"no washing machines and no active gardening.."
So very different from my Sunday which I have just this minute posted about.

The car looks very, very n ice and I'm sure you'll get used to her in no time at all. Do you have a name for her yet?

Kath Lockett said...

River, Love Chunks is convinced that it's a He* and we've provisionally christened him 'Pierre' but Sapphire's not sure if it'll stick. Suggestions welcome.

* Probably because with a wife, daughter and girl dog he'd like another male in the household!

drb said...

Nice looking zippy car!

Kymmie said...

Kath, the Peugot is VERY exciting! We bought our very first new car in November and I didn't drive it for a whole week. Kept driving the old car. People kept asking, why are you still driving the old car? Because I was too scared to drive the new one.

Sad, but true.

You give that girl a drive soon. She's just waiting for you to give her a good christening!

Kath Lockett said...

Yep, Pierre is pretty cute :)

Hannah said...

I just finally succumbed to buying my parents' (second) car, because Canberra is a stupidbum city that's too spread out and has crappy public transport. Thank heavens it's automatic, but then again maybe if it was manual then magicians would have stepped in and a bird wouldn't have flown straight out of the bushed this afternoon and into my front wheel during peak hour traffic. :(

Oops. I think this comment just became about me. :P

Kath Lockett said...

Oooh Hannah that's horrible when birds fly into your car. I saw a tiny puppy today escape from its owner (an elderly gentleman) and run straight into the traffic. A car skidded to a stop and ran over the lead, trapping the dog. Very lucky escape.

Ah automatic...! I miss it so.....

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

I drive a manual in England and I have driven the same car in France - which is weird driving an English car on the wrong side of the road - particularly when overtaking.

I've driven an automatic in the US (also the wrong side of the road) and in France we hired a car and I kept hitting the door whenever I needed too change gear.

You get used to it but I want to change International Law to make EVERYBODY drive on the same side of the road as we Brits and you Aussies.




Baino said...

How I long for a new car and not the 1992 Hoonda I'm driving at the moment. You're brave tackling the left hand drive but I believe it's easy once you know how apart from roundabouts ugh. I'm still mastering Melbourne's Hook Turns.

Kath Lockett said...

PlasMan, I dream of such a law - LEFT HAND SIDE FOR EVERYONE! NOW!

Baino, it's the gears rather than the side of the road that's bothering me at the moment. Being seated on the left side of the car means that you already kind of 'adapt' to driving on the other side of the road - I think it would be far more difficult to do that with a right hand drive....

nuttynoton said...

Remember most drivers started off not knowing how to drive so you are ahead of them in that respect, just be patient, take your time and watch out for the roundabouts!your confidence will slowly build

It is only a car!