Confessional time again, although I do not think this is much of a ‘crime’ then just something that many people would find unusual. I really do not like driving very much. Which is perhaps odd, as I do quite a lot of driving when it comes down to it with going back and forth on the dreaded M25 to work or perhaps the long trip up North to my father near Newcastle. Then again, maybe this is precisely why I am at best ambivalent to getting behind the wheel, and I am guaranteed to respond positively to any suggestion from the Lovely Wife along the lines of ‘would you like me to drive?’ As with several areas of life we nicely complement each other here… I am not taking advantage of her as the Lovely Wife actually seems to like driving. Even if I did not have a company car hybrid my car would always be a boring work horse while the Lovely Wife would want the thoroughbred.
Anyway, out here in Asia on business someone else is doing the driving (when public transport is not really an option, as I much prefer using trains when available). In Beijing, where I am writing this, I am heartily glad of the fact I do not have to drive as I would not last five minutes. There is a particular art it seems to driving here, which involves treating lanes as optional, a willingness to get perilously close to other vehicles and liberal use of the horn – generally it seems as a warning of ‘I’m coming through’ rather than the rather pathetic gesture of annoyance it often is at home. I guess I should be cowering in the back (nervously noting the lack of useable rear seatbelts, something particularly striking in someone who grew up in the period in the UK where wearing then became compulsory in both back and front). But I am not. Indeed, my generic fitness tracker is telling me I am actually quite chilled, which surprised even me. But, thinking about it, there are a couple of reasons why that might be. First, I find China endlessly fascinating and there is so much to distract me – like the gentleman in minimal beekeeping gear (a hat with a net) checking his bees from one of about ten makeshift hives lined up at the side of a busy road. Then there is the group of older ladies in uniform with their massive petrol driven strimmers, efficiently pushing back the encroaching vegetation.
In addition, I am generally a good passenger. Perhaps because I dislike driving so much I think you have to accept that you are putting your faith in your driver, something I have only rarely regretted (and once regretted and survived, never repeated). So I’m letting the taxi driver do what he needed to and, at least physiologically, not worrying about it too much.
Compare this to my most terrifying moment behind the wheel, driving a hire car through the Turkish city of Izmir. Initially we (a bunch of lads) found driving around (typically, although we were based in Bodrum, the main focus was visiting many of the Greco-Roman sites as we could rather than partying the night away every night) rather stressful, but soon started to adapt a bit so that we started to do what the locals do. But somehow I ended up driving through the only city we had to negotiate and in my head (obviously not in reality – well I hope not) I drove through it with my eyes closed in terror as vehicles, mobile market stalls and at least one cow seemed to hurtle towards me from all directions.
We survived. But thinking of that experience means that I’ll leave it to the experts from now on, given half the chance.