Alright Guys! Thanks for stopping by again. In today’s blog I will be taking you back about 6 months ago when we first arrived in Singapore. Back to a crazy, chaotic, stressful time. Let me set the scene for you as we first tried to venture out, without a driver, Uber or a taxi, into this strange new World where people drive on the wrong side of the road! Now I have driven for a very long time, in some of Americas largest cities. Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami even the rural gravel roads of Northern Indiana and was never intimidated or even the least bit worried. But for some reason the thought of driving over here “On the wrong side of the road” had my attention.
Yes it was a day to remember, we were going to drive. After 2 weeks of walking past & waving at our shiny Camry just sitting alone in the parking garage as we hail a cab, take the train or simply walked to our destination.
It was like 1 of the moments you never forget, you know, one that brings back that sick to your stomach feeling that you try to forget but can’t. It was fairly early on a Sunday morning and the agreement was made that Today was the day we were going to conquer our fear of hopping into a motorized vehicle where the steering wheel and all the ancillary but necessary controls were on the right side (or as we say wrong side) of the car. This time we were going to actually try to drive ourselves! The ill-conceived plan was put together the night before. The mission was to drive to the grocery store which was about 3/4 of a mile down the street.
We loaded the kids up in the back with specific instructions not to utter a single word, no whining, no moaning, no saying we are going to slow or can you turn the radio on? nothing, complete silence. I settled into the driver’s seat, adjusted the mirrors, Google Maps engaged & the A/C on as cold as I could get it, as I could already feel the perspiration beading up on my forehead.
I pressed the Start button and the engine came to life, Into drive mode we went, down the long winding dark corridor of the underground parking garage to the steep incline where the light of day was visible. As we circled the security guard station I noticed the “I can’t believe they are finally driving” stares of the employees as we crept past them at a turtles pace.
We were on our way! Stay Left & So Far So good were the words of encouragement from my lovely & supportive wife. I acknowledged with “We havent made it to the street yet!” Now the street that runs past our condo is a 3 lane busy thoroughfare which is just past (Newton Circus) more on that later! I knew things were going to get crazy when I went to turn left onto the street. I engaged what I thought was the turn signal, but NO it was the windshield wipers which right on cue started screeching back and forth on the dry windshield in seemingly mocking repetition. Ok then, I murmured.
Onward! We turned left and proceeded cautiously down the street approx 200 yards to our 1st stoplight, I was able to get the wipers turned off & stopped well behind the cross walk. OK, I thought we can do this! The light turned green and we were on our way once again, the next challenge was a confusing intersection where 4 busy roads converge at very odd angles. It was at this point anxieties reared their ugly heads. My technology supportive wife had also turned on her cell phone navigation as a precautionary measure as my Google Maps sometimes goes bat s**t crazy.
My phone was saying to turn right, hers was saying to go straight, by this time the kids in the back were getting antsy and predictably starting to moan and whine “I’m hungry” “when are we going to be there?” The traffic light was red so we were trying to gather our bearings and figure out which way to go.
Then the moment came…. The light turned green, but wait the right turn arrow was red? what do I do? straight on green? Stop/Go Right? wait its red. OMG! people behind me were honking their horns at us. It was at this moment I knew that if we ever made it thru this intersection alive that I would never drive in Singapore again.
I pressed on the gas, signalled for my intended right hand turn as the windshield wipers came on again flapping wildly as if to say “Look at us, we are Idiots” & tried snaking thru the long blurring lines of traffic. Was it red/green? I’m not sure what color the light was. Time nearly stood still as it seemed to take forever to get thru that intersection, which dumped us onto another busy road where a quick right turn was approaching. Again both phone directions were saying two different things, One says go straight, one says turn right.
At least this time God showed mercy on us as we had a green right turn arrow so I went for it and entered into the seemingly safe harbour of a parking garage. A collective exhaustive Oh No! was let out as we now were circling endlessly upwards into the Heavens or Hell on the narrowest, tightest entrance I had ever seen. The sides of this maze were scarred with a variety of paint colors from other less fortunate visitors to this suspended concrete structure in the sky.
With our hearts still pounding as we ascended higher and higher, it seemed as though we couldn’t catch our breath. I’m pretty sure I heard the kids praying quietly to the good Lord to please make this nightmare stop. Finally I think we were on the 10th floor we saw the opening to launch us out into an actual place to park our exhausted car.
The light at the end of the tunnel was near as we spotted a narrow but oh so glorious empty parking space. A big exhale followed after several attempts to back into our space. At that moment we all looked at each other with bewildered faces. I’m not sure if we felt relieved that we had survived the last 3/4 of a mile or more worried about what awaits on our journey back home.
To Be Continued……