Notes on studying abroad – Part 2

I had just got my licence. But then that did not really mean that I could drive, let alone maintain my car.

The things I could do was brake ( oh yeah!) and indicate that I was turning ( even if I was  moving slightly to the right on a straight road). The things I could not do involved changing lanes on the freeway ( without someone in the car looking back and telling me “Now, Now, Now!”, reverse and parallel park.  Reverse and parallel park were  part of the ten year plan ( still is!).

I was still figuring out how to drive without being honked at all the time when I had to move from Atlanta to Scottsdale for an internship. Needless to say the drive from the airport to my apartment took twice as long ( read distance and time) and vexed every single commuter who had the good/misfortune of sharing the  deviation riddled freeway with me.

I soon got better at changing lanes; every time I did only a couple of cars honked and not the entire ‘freeway’! Some of them honked even when I was not in the process of changing lanes. During my second week I realized that it was because slower moving traffic normally kept to the right side of the freeway. “Freeway etiquette”  said an article on the internet. But that was not very easy to comply with for every time I kept to the right I landed up taking an exit I did not intend to.

One  night I had just turned into the street a few miles short of where I lived when I was pulled over. Dutifully following procedure  as I was taught in the driving school, I rolled down my window and kept both my hands on the steering wheel. A middle-aged officer walked over and stood beside my car unsmiling.

“Do you know why you are pulled over?”

“No Sir. But I know I was not speeding.”

” Oh no. That you were not. Unfortunately I cannot do anything about you going too slow.  Switch on your engine please.”

” Can I take my hands off the wheel?”   – I did not want him pulling out a gun on me!

Struggling to curb a smile he answered ” Is there any other way you can switch on your engine?”

“No Sir.”

” Then please take your hands off the wheel”.

I switched  on my engine and my dashboard lit up.

” You see that blue icon? You know what that is?”


“I know lights, but what light?”  Exasperated.

“My car lights….?” — Where the hell is this guy from?

The officer did not  know whether to laugh or not. He looked at me a whole minute and then decided I was innocent, probably retarded!

“They are bright lights. You do not use high beam in the city. Do you understand?”

 If only he knew the effort it took me to find out how to switch on the lights! 

There were other blinking lights on my dashboard.  He pointed to the another one ( which I later learnt  indicated low tire pressure) and asked

” Do you know what that means?”

” Oil Change…?”


7 thoughts on “Notes on studying abroad – Part 2

  1. This post is gonna lend credence to the belief that girls cant drive.. and neither can they understand the mechanics of a car 🙂


    • Nilesh…

      Well I do not speak ( or write) for all of womankind!! 🙂

      I am sure there are men worse than me! I am willing to bet on that!



  2. Lisa I am so happy at last I found somebody who had similar driving experiences in US.Believe me I drove six months with a temporary permit (due to my license from India) and almost nine months without a license just like the illegal Mexicans who are plenty In CA.Fortunately I was not caught. My mother claims it was due to her prayers. I just couldn’t get through the road test.Finally on Sept 8, 2008 I got the license.( I landed in US on June 6,2007) Again my mother claimed it was due to a nercha my mother offered to Mother Mary. It took me another 3 years to start driving on the freeway.Changing lanes was a phobia. But after I started driving on the freeway,now I almost have to drive 50 miles daily.It’s like having 2 jobs one in KTM and one In Kochi. And recently I got my first ticket for driving without turnng on my carlights at 10 in the night.
    Anyway I just wanted to say I enjoyed ur story .Looking forward to read more of your experiences in US. I am sure every newcomer in US will find themselves identifying with ur experiences in one way or other


    • Sherine,

      I way got through my driving test is a whole different story. Maybe that should be part 3:)

      Thanks for reading.



  3. Hey Lisa! I have been in the US for a year now and haven’t driven. Seeing this post, I guess I’m not missing much:) The first day I landed, I kinda wondered about the left-hand drive and I still keep messing up the turns mentally. Coming close to a turn ( even in a cab), I try to guess which way the driver is going to go, and am mostly wrong.

    Looking forward to reading more on this series.


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