Today I drove a Mercedes.
This will be my mode of transport for the next couple of months, and I am petrified. It is huge! Huge and shiny and huge again. The dashboard looks like the control desk of a spaceship or something, full of little lights all glaring at me, daring me to press them.
I managed to get all the way to the supermarket without any major difficulties, although in the parking lot I had to drive around for ages looking for two spaces side by side so that I didn’t have to attempt to park the huge scary monster whilst also concentrating on not scratching it on a nearby car.
Getting home was another matter altogether. The street where I’m living is off the beaten track, and I quite simply couldn’t find it again. This was rather disconcerting. I drove practically all the way back to Lausanne, then to a few random small towns by the lake and in the hills, always retracing my path and starting again from the supermarket, and always ending up somewhere other than where I was supposed to be. It is maddening when you know that your destination is very, very close but you repeatedly fail to arrive at it.
I got more and more panicky, to the point where I somehow managed to switch on the full beam headlights and couldn’t get them back off again, so I had to endure everyone angrily flashing their lights at me before retreating to sit in a lay-by and press every button I could find. I washed the windsreens (front and back), sprayed the car with soapy water, opened all the windows, made hazard lights flash, and caused a French woman to start talking at me, presumably from inside the engine. Even when I managed to get the lights off, I couldn’t get her to shut up. She talked at me for the rest of the journey.
Eventually, I stopped to ask for directions. Excuse me, I said in French, I don’t speak French very well, sorry, but can you help me? I’m lost. It is, I am discovering, a mistake to open with a sentence that I have used many, many times, because I can say it so perfectly that it does nothing to convince the other person that I really can’t speak French very well. They just act as if I never said it, and talk at ridiculous speeds so that I can understand about one word in ten. I have made a mental note to make deliberate mistakes in that sentence from now on, and to throw in a Ballymena accent for good measure, just so they know I’m serious.
Fortunately, the kind soul today was very patient, and eventually spoke as one might address a small child. And sure enough, I followed his directions and found my way home. I had, it seems, been going round in circles, and had I simply turned right at any point, I would have been home in about ten seconds.
I have done some research, and the train station is just a ten minute walk from the house…