I need to make a confession. I hate driving. I avoid driving beyond my local comfort zone if at all possible. And I never, ever (deliberately) drive on motorways. On a number of occasions in the last few years, I’ve decided that I need to be brave, and I’ve made journeys to places far, far away (mostly to the other side of Dublin city.)
And every single time, without fail, I’ve gotten lost and had to call my husband to tell me what to do. I’m not proud of this, and indeed in many other areas of life I classify myself as a reasonably self-sufficient(ish) grown-up with a reasonably cool(ish) head on her shoulders. But not with driving. Specifically, not finding myself lost on the Northside of Dublin – my husband’s old stomping ground, but somewhere still unfamiliar to me.
If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say there’s nothing I hate more than being in the wrong lane and trying to get back to where I need to be. Oh, wait, there’s something I hate more than that – huge, busy roundabouts that are hard to get on to and have confusing lane layouts. Actually, no, even more than that, I hate finding myself accidentally on the ramp to a motorway, when I had no intention of being on a motorway at all.
The thing with motorways isn’t the motorways themselves – once I’m on and driving, it’s the same as any road really. It’s getting on them. I had a scary experience a slip road onto the M50 about eight years ago, and I’m convinced now that there’s no guarantee the oncoming cars will move aside to let me in. (There’s isn’t any guarantee – you just keep driving, hoping it goes OK, right?)
And in my comfort zone, I’m fine. I drove from Dun Laoghaire to the IFSC every day for nine years, happily navigating the lane changes and the awkward right turn at Holles Street because I knew it like the back of my hand. It’s the unfamiliar that breeds panic.
Nevertheless, every now and then I decide that enough is enough, and I need to get out of my comfort zone. Like last week, when my lovely sister-in-law invited me in to Classic Hits 4 FM to talk parenting and books. The studio is near the Point (or whatever the Point is called now) and much as I love public transport (it’s me-time) the only sensible option was to drive. She had told me to park in the Gibson Hotel Car Park and my Google maps was happy to bring me there, so what could go wrong?
Roadworks. That’s what could go wrong. The turn for the Gibson car park was blocked off and as Google maps desperately tried to get me to turn anyway, I had no choice but to keep going forward. I could feel my breathing getting short. What now? I looked straight ahead and according to the signs, I had only two options – get on the M1 motorway or go through the Port Tunnel. My breathing got shorter. Dear Jesus, for an easily-lost motorway-hater like me, this was panic time.
I turned for the motorway and pulled into the first place I could find – a salvage yard. A security guard came over to ask me what I was doing, and I explained that I was lost and just needed to look at Google maps. Really I needed to phone my husband because Google maps couldn’t save me now, but he was in a meeting. Then I spotted the text from my sister-in-law to tell me about the detour I needed to take. The security guard must have sensed the panic in my voice, because he came back then with a truly kind and wonderfully Irish gesture – he asked me if I wanted a cup of tea.
I made it to the studio, and I made it home, and vowing that next time I’ll stick with public transport and a good book. To everyone reading this who zips up and down the country, in and out of lanes, around roundabouts, and on to motorways without any fear at all, I salute you, I envy you, and I aspire one day to be you. To anyone reading this who is like me (anyone? anyone?) – let’s wave at one another as we pass (hopefully not on the wrong side of the motorway.)