Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Like that "Ratt" Song from 1984.

Out on the streets, that's where we'll meet
You make the night, I always cross the line
Tightened our belts, abuse ourselves
Get in our way, we'll put you on your shelf
Another day, some other way
We're gonna go, but then we'll see you again
I've had enough, we've had enough

This past week-end marked my first foray into the world of driving in Norway. Now, before I start, I should mention that it was NOT my idea to throw driving into the mix during my second weekend in a new country. Unfortunately someone who has been here for 1 month already forgot to renew their driver’s license while they were home in Scotland. Best not mention names.

So off to Hertz rent- a- really- expensive car which happens to be just around the corner from our apartment. Talk with very innocent looking Scandinavian kid who can’t be old enough to drive a car let alone decide if I should be allowed to hire one. Palms getting sweaty, he asks for my driver’s license and my address.  I look questioningly at the driver’s license-less person next to me. He stares blankly back. Unhelpful. Which address? I think. My Norwegian address?  The one on my credit card or the supposedly more permanent UK one? Why do these Hertz people have so many invasive questions?

Spotty Scandinavian kid rescues someone and I from our first Norwegian domestic and types in the address on my driver’s license. Never mind that I don’t live there anymore.

While we are waiting for the keys to the chariot, I scan a laminated placemat of car choices. Audis, LandRovers…these all seem like really expensive cars. I hope I don’t get one.

Keys finally in hand we head up to our compact car and get inside. I murmur a sigh of relief as I realize it’s an automatic and NOT a Bentley. One less thing to think about. Problem number 2: rain of biblical proportions has begun its onslaught on Southwestern Norway. There is no escaping it. Scottish partner, of course, barely registers that this anything more than a cool, dewy mist. He’s got that, “get on with it, will ya lass?” look on his face as I fumble with the controls to find the windshield wipers. He finally reaches over in exasperation and does some kind of intricate twisty thing with his fingers and the wipers spring into action. We are off.

Windows seriously foggy, I hunch down in the seat so I can see  where the air-circulation system has cleared a small strip of windscreen. The Hertz parking lot is half way up the side of what seems like its own fjord, which is quickly becoming a waterfall. There’s a vertical driveway in front of me, which a voice from the passenger’s seat assures me is a road. For someone who doesn’t presently have a driver’s license, he sure is confident.

At the end of the fjord road stands two hurdles. The first one is the crosswalk. In Norway I have learned that it is normal driver etiquette (and probably law) to stop at every crosswalk when there is a pedestrian within 100 miles. Unfortunately, this recently acquired information slips my mind in the euphoria of reaching the top of the Hertz parking lot hill. I barrel through my first crosswalk, leaving a disgruntled Norwegian teenager in my wake, and the Scot in the passenger seat shrieking, “Stop, Stop!” Who knew the Scottish were such rule followers?

Undeterred  by my shaky start, I stare down the end of the road, focused on the task ahead. And then I see her- my old foe, my eternal nemesis. And in this country of polite, respectful drivers, she is silent but deadly. The roundabout.

For those of you who grew up with these things, I understand that the rules of the roundabout make perfect sense to you. However, for those of us who live in lands of traffic lights and four way stops (an inferior system by any account) the rules of the roundabout take some adjustment. It’s kind of like trying to hop into moving double dutch ropes for the first time. You stand there making ridiculous circular arm movements in the air until you think it’s time to jump, or one of your more co-ordinated mates starts rhythmically chanting, “Jump…now…now…now”. Fortunately , I did neither of those.

Instead I glanced casually to my left and propelled my way into the traffic circle, causing my passenger a brief moment of panic, (ever seen a Scot scared? Me either.) but absolutely no reaction from the car I cut off. This is when it hit me. No horns! How fabulous. Now I can pretend that I didn’t just practically run over a woman in a crosswalk and almost cause a roundabout casualty. Although after that I did spend most of the day braking at EVERY SINGLE roundabout and crosswalk. Even the ones where there was no one around for miles. And in a country where there are only 39 people per square mile, there were A LOT of those. I guess someone is going to be getting his license renewed very soon.


  1. Driving here is definitely different from Canada. We jumped through hoops getting our licenses here, as we had moved from Oman.

  2. It is! Some aspects are strangely similar, although I am still getting used to the roundabouts and crosswalks...we don't have a car yet as we live in town so I guess it will take some time to adapt!