Thursday, May 31, 2012

Behind the Wheel

I'm going to share something I miss, fear, desire, and am currently working towards.

I miss it because I used to do it all the time. Generally, it was a very regular part of my day. 
I fear it because how I'm going to do it here in Norway is different in so many ways for so many reasons. 
I desire it because (I miss it, and) I'm sure it will bring a new sense of independence to my life in a new country. 
I'm currently working towards it, and paying heaps of money to accomplish it. 

What am I talking about? Driving. I need it in my life again. 

I don't mind public transportation. It's very good here and I use it often, but sometimes I just want to drive. I just want to be alone in a car, behind the wheel, music on, windows down, driving. Wandering. Exploring.

I realize that my desire to drive may not be understood by everyone, but I come from a place where driving is a necessity, and to me, a source of independence. 

A few weeks ago, I wouldn't be able to put this into words, but my lovely sister was able to translate my whining into something productive. (I don't know how she does it, but I'm pretty sure she can read me like a book. I would be lying if I said I hated it - she helps me nail down what's bugging me.) Thank goodness for sisters, right?? 

Here's an excerpt from a chat we had: 

but another thing i really miss lately is driving.
  just so i can go other places by myself
  because right now, if i ever want to go somewhere NOT in the center of the city, stian has to drive me.
  or i have to take like 4 busses.
6:56 PM Caren: that makes sense....being in Norway means you have lost a lot of the autonomy that you had...and that you clearly cherished

All I can think is: ahh! She nailed it! That is exactly it. I need to achieve autonomy again.

And so driving has become a top priority in my life right now. So far I've taken 2 lessons and they have been absolutely fantastic. My instructor might be the calmest person I've ever met and incredibly helpful. 

I have to take lessons for two reasons: 1) Norway makes you take lessons when you exchange your license from places other than Europe, and 2) I can't drive stick shift and we won't get an automatic car. 

So far, my dad, mom, and husband have tried to teach me. It's been nothing short of a disaster each time. My mother's advice to me when I said I need to learn to drive stick was this: don't have your husband teach you. Just don't do it. 

Oh Mom, your infinite wisdom never ceases to amaze me. 
You know I like to learn most lessons the hard way though and so I tried it anyway.

I don't understand how the car works, and my husband doesn't understand why I don't understand...and so we argue. And shout. And then get frustrated. And then I stall the car. And panic. And once I get going again I have to pull over and get out because I start laughing uncontrollably at the absurdity of it all - laughing so hard tears are pouring out of my eyes for what seems like hours and my belly aches so bad the only thing it can do next is burst. 

And that was the last time Stian sat in the passenger seat. 

So. Lessons it is. Rather expensive lessons, too. I'm not exaggerating when I say they are $100 an hour and you must do a two hour lesson each time. It's going to cost me about one thousand dollars in driver's training, plus an additional $150 to actually take the practical test. Cross your fingers that I pass because if I don't, it's going cost about $2000 for mandatory theory classes. Yikes.

I believe with all my heart that it's worth every penny (or kroner, I should say). Instead of flipping out behind the wheel while trying to manage the clutch, remember what gear I'm in, and fight every urge to close my eyes and scream when I go through a round-about - I'm calm. I'm collected. I understand what I'm doing (or am supposed to be doing, at least...we learn through mistakes, right?). I feel in control. I am beginning to look forward to driving instead of dreading it. 

Can't wait for the day my Norwegian driver's license comes in the mail. 


  1. I've been thinking about my desire to drive too. I just want to be able to get away from the city when I choose to do so. I guess it is just as much about buying a car as getting a license. But aughhh, so expensive!

    I'm glad you mentioned learning how to drive stick in the lessons bc I was wondering how I'd actually learn that (all previous attempts have gone bad) - good to know that a "professional" can teach me!

  2. Alyssa, stick shift is pretty simple to understand. Basically, each gear covers a fixed speed range. When the RPMs go between 3000-4000 (your preference), let off the gas and shift. Getting your clutch-gas timing down takes the most practice, but once you get the hang of it is easy. Hills are a little more work, as sometimes they require downshifting to get up, as well as giving more gas. To start on a hill, you need to hold the car with your emergency brake, rev up a bit and then release as you release the clutch. If you do this on steep hill, you will not roll back!

    The key to not stalling all the time is to be aware with what is going on with your RPMs and shift accordingly and to put the car in neutral just before coming to a stop (or hold the clutch), and to let off smoothly while giving it gas when you accelerate from a stop while it is in first. Also, never let your mind drift off when driving stick shift, as an abrupt reaction can also cause a stall if you don't prepare for a stop or an accelerate from a stop accordingly.

  3. I just went through this in the past few months (I left it too long though and had to take a bunch of extra courses - all in all everything cost 15 750 kr), so I feel your pain. I have driven manual for many years though, so I was able to avoid that though: hopefully you get the hang of it quickly:) Remember that you also have to rent the car from the driving school, which adds another unexpected cost (for me it was 1900 kr - outrageous!). Good luck!

  4. So, did you get your license yet? Or are you still practicing/learning?

    I wanted all my kids to learn how to drive stick shift, so when they were learning how to drive, they learned stick as well as automatic. One of the first learning sessions included driving up and down the residential street where we lived, starting and stopping every two houses. Put it in 1st gear, speed up a little and shift to 2nd, then stop at the second house. Up and down the street we went, starting and stopping until with each try the process was smoother, easier. As they progressed, it went to three houses, four, then the whole street. The next lesson was to listen to the car as it would tell you when to shift. The higher the pitch (higher RPMs), the need to shift became clear. Then when they were comfortable with shifting, stopping and starting, we would go on longer drives in traffic to learn how to downshift (usually to the detriment of the lugging car)... but the process was complete. Usually within a week they learned how to drive a stick shift... at least well enough where I felt they wouldn't crash while driving. I heard stories of how they stalled in traffic, but they knew how to get it going again and didn't panic.

    Now two of my four kids drive stick all the time. When Ladd and I went to Denmark and Spain, we drove in cars with a stick shift. Since I had learned how to drive stick with my parents 1964 VW bug, it felt like old times... kind of fun.

    Hope you are doing well. Love you.

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