When Bill and I went on our big adventure in Europe in 2008, we drove over 6,000 miles in the three months we traveled. We drove through six countries — Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. And believe me, when I say “we”, I mean Bill, because he drove every single solitary mile of the trip. I simply pointed out everything he was doing wrong.
We had some interesting experiences, including what we coined “the wall of death” in Italy whereby the cement blocks dividing the lanes going one direction from the lanes going the other direction were literally inches from the side of the car as we drove. We were on the autobahn where cars raced past us going who knows how many kilometers per hour, passing us like we were standing still. There were inexplicable road traffic signs and roads so narrow that two people could barely pass one another when walking, much less driving.
Still, the driving didn’t bother Bill nearly as much as did driving in Great Britain some 15 years earlier. He did pretty well in Britain, all things considered; still, I don’t think he ever quite got comfortable navigating the roads which were opposite of what he was used to. As you well know, In Great Britain, you drive on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car. In other words, what my dad would call Ass Backwards. It took everything Bill had to make himself look right before he looked left.
I’m terrifically tuned into which side of the car the steering wheel is placed now that I am binge-watching Midsommer Murders. As many times as I have watched (I’m on Season 12), I still want to scream at the chief detective inspector to tell him that he is heading to the wrong side of the car when he is in a hurry to chase a bad guy.
The other day I began wondering why Americans drive on the right side of the road rather than the left like their British friends. Were we just determined to do things differently than our friends across the pond? Did our forefathers drive their buggies on the right side just to piss off the Redcoats? So I looked it up because you can find anything on the internet.
To my surprise, the answer is that at one time, almost everybody rode on the left side of the road. However, the reason for this was that people were on horseback, and they wanted to have their weapon handy to protect themselves. Because most people were (and are) right-handed, that meant that the horses and riders would ride on the left side, keeping their weapons in their right hands. Tough luck for the lefties.
Years passed, and suddenly it was the 1700s. People now drove horse-drawn wagons. In the beginning, there were no drivers’ seats in the wagons, and drivers sat on the left horse, freeing his right hand to hold the whip. Since he was on the left side, others passed the wagons on the left. I’m not sure why; maybe so they could flip off the driver for moving so slowly. Early road rage.
As such, most countries made the change for good. Since Great Britain still has their barristers and solicitors and judges wear powder wigs, it comes as no surprise that they have been reluctant to make this change. And likely never will.
By the way, I saved Bill’s life when we were walking in London. He looked to the left and began walking. I pulled him back to the curb as a car raced by from the right.