I am once again a passenger, dependent on someone else to drive me wherever I need to go, mainly for two reasons. First, I cannot drive here because the cars in Portugal that we can afford to rent are manual transmissions. I have no idea how to crank one up, much less drive one. I can barely drive with one feet, much less trying to figure out how to use both feet at once. The clutch is so unnecessary to me, and so, to avoid an international incident, I am relegated to the passenger side of the car.
I am purely fascinated to watch as Douglas shifts gears, especially because I do not know the first gear from the third gear. Of course, that does not keep me from giving my expert opinion on how the car should be driven, such as when to brake and how fast to go. Fortunately, Douglas does not pay me any attention, and goes on driving in his very expert ways.
The constant shifting and the subsequent jerking of the car is just too much for me, so I am not even asking to learn how to drive a manual shift. Although I am somewhat hampered from simply getting in the car and going places alone, I am resigned that this is the best course of action for me and the people of Portugal. I only learned to drive when I was fifty, and in the first driving lessons I took, I hyperventilated and passed out driving 65 miles an hour down the highway with an 18-wheeler in front of me and one in back of me. That may have been a one-time miracle, so, you can imagine that I do not want to press my luck here.
Moreover, the speed limit on the highways here is 120 kmph, and I believe that is greater than 65 mph, so it probably would not be a good thing for me to try learning here with my history, as I may not be so lucky to survive at that higher speed. This is particularly true because when we are going 120 kmph, we must be in the slow lane, as that seems to be only a suggested speed for many drivers here in Portugal.
My heart is in my throat the whole time we are driving on the highways here. I don’t even drive on the highways at home, because the speed is just too fast for me. Yes, it would be faster to take the highways, but, you do what you have to do, and for me, that means staying on the local roads.
The second reason that I will remain a passenger here is that Portugal uses the roundabout system, rather than stop lights. To go anywhere, you have to know which exit from the roundabout to take, and there are no second chances to decide. As we enter and exit the roundabout, I am so lost that I am glad that Douglas knows where he is going. He learned this system the three years he was a missionary in Kenya, Africa, so it makes perfect sense to him.
I would probably never find my way home, if I had to go through the roundabouts alone. What I thought was exit two turned out to be exit three, so now, I don’t offer a suggestion on which exit to take. Of course, Douglas has been known to do some creative American driving here, meaning driving the wrong way when taking the wrong exit, and I just scream at him, “What are you doing?” But, he keeps sailing happily right along, disregarding my craziness, or is it his craziness?
So, as much as I would like to get out and drive to the store to shop when Douglas has something to do, I just have to wait until he is free to take me. That is hard for me, because I have become accustomed to driving wherever I want, whenever I want, and staying however long I want. Becoming a passenger again is difficult, for it put me once again at the mercy of another person.
But, as I do not know how to clutch and accelerate (or is it clutch and brake?), it’s best that I simply occupy the passenger seat, doing the unofficial backseat driving that Douglas likes so well (smile). No use making the people in Portugal as nervous about my driving as the people in my neighborhood who must get a real kick out seeing me trying to get out of my driveway or trying not to hit the side of the garage.
Thankfully, I know that Psalm 34:7 reminds us that God’s angels encamp around those who fear Him and deliver them from troubles. Moreover, I am aware that we are never alone, for Joshua 1:9 states, “Do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” So, whenever we get in the car, I first thank God for His angels that drive with us and for us, and I ask Him to help us find our way. That has worked for us very well. But, I am firmly attached to the passenger side of the car for now.