"Hey. I've been in a crash. I'm okay, but I've missed the flight home. I'll call you later."
Getting a text message like that from my partner was the last thing I expected on a Saturday morning, as I woke up in the guest bedroom of my friend's house in Northern Ireland, having traveled there for a weekend visit. Knowing that there was nothing I could do to help him, so many miles away, was probably the worst part of it. Still, the fact that he crashed the car, reminded me of his many requests for me to start driving, so he wouldn't have to be the only one to drive us around.
For many people, knowing how to drive is part of coming of age. I skipped that ritual, so at the ripe old age of 27, I'm only learning how to get behind the wheel of a car now. I simply didn't care about driving, because where I grew up in Ireland, public transport was convenient enough, cheap enough and extensive enough that I just didn't need a car. It's only now, in my long-distance relationship, do I realize the need to learn how to drive. It's not something I look forward to, but as my partner has told me regularly enough, once you do it, you won't look back.
Although, I'm guessing the occasional use of a rear-view mirror is advised.
Still, my partner's car crash in the U.S. scared me, as I know he was shaken up, despite his good driving skills. Such an occurrence makes you realize that accidents can happen to even the best drivers, and that we can't take ourselves for granted. The team he called were brilliant for their service and advice about fender benders, and backed me up in insisting to get a medical check. Thankfully, everything was fine, but the doctor apparently started telling stories of those in 'minor' car crashes who suffered back injuries without knowing or feeling anything at first.
For me, as I'm learning something that comes to others as second nature, safety is top priority. As we both plan regular road trips around Ireland and the U.K., I regularly check that the brakes, tires, fluids, lights, windshield and wipers are all in good condition and working order. It might sound completely stupid to a seasoned driver, but almost every driver was once a nervous wreck behind the wheel, right? I'm now learning why people put so much care and attention into their car, because at the end of the day, they're putting the same care into anyone else who travels in the car with them.
As for driving around America, that's a different kettle of fish, and I don't just mean because of driving on the other side of the road! Long-distance road trips are one of the many appealing aspects to visiting the United States, but that means hiring a good car, planning the route well, preparing for any emergencies, and planning where to rest.
It's the tourism aspect to driving that I know I will enjoy, because I don't really need it for anything else. Seeing new cities, towns, and landscapes, and sharing the duty of driving there with my partner, is what I look forward to. Maybe I'm finally becoming a little more mature in my attitude to driving.