Backseat driving in the right lane

Driving in the left-hand seat can be fun ... and confusing, says Damian Bathersby.
Driving in the left-hand seat can be fun ... and confusing, says Damian Bathersby. THOMAS LOHNES / Continental AG /

I THINK I may have mentioned that my wife's not a big fan of my driving.

It could be the way I always seem to take the longest route to get somewhere.

Or maybe it's the way I can have a choice of seven wide open carparks but still manage to violently swerve into a different one between two hulking great four-wheel-drives, giving her mild whiplash and leaving barely enough room to open the doors much less alight from the vehicle with any dignity.

So you can hardly blame her.

It not only means she's become a nervous passenger, but every time we've travelled overseas she's refused to let me drive.

It doesn't matter which side of the road they drive on, she feels happier if someone else is behind the wheel.

Even in America when we hired a red Mustang convertible to drive along Route 66 with some friends, I was confined to the passenger seat while someone else drove.

Anyone else.

As long as it wasn't me.

I almost got revenge when a 20-year-old cousin of my son's wife thought it would be cool to do 170km/h on a Brazilian highway in torrential rain with us terrified in the backseat, but even a few years later it's too soon to joke about that.

(For the record, after about half an hour I swallowed my pride and asked him to slow down and we did the rest of the trip at a more sedate 130km/h).

Remarkably, when we went to our daughter's wedding in the French countryside recently, my wife relented and allowed me to hire a car.

I like to think it was because of her new-found confidence in my driving skills.

It probably had more to do with the fact the nearest bottle shop was 10km from where we were staying.

Anyway, the end result was the same - me behind the wheel of car, driving on the right-hand side of the road.

And a strange thing happened.

Somewhere about my seventh or eighth trip to the bottle shop, my wife agreed to come with me.

And as we weaved our way along the narrow country roads of rural France, she uttered the words I had been waiting years to hear - "You're not bad at this driving on the wrong side of the road thing.”

But before I had a chance to enjoy the warm inner glow of being praised, she followed up with "Of course, it's probably because you spend most of your time on the wrong side of the road back home”.

So just to teach her a lesson, I spent the next 15 minutes driving on the left-hand side then swerved into a carpark next to a huge four-wheel-drive outside the bottle shop.

I reckon I'm about ready to tackle Route 66 now.

Topics:  damian bathersby driving opinion

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