An American Couple in Delft
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Driving

Today we’re going to talk about driving an automatic transmission. Automatic transmissions have P R N D 3 2 1 or some minor variation. How difficult can that be? Most cars here are standard transmission and IKEA was kind enough to get us an automatic because they know that most Americans don’t know how to drive manual transmissions. What they didn’t know is that yours truly has never owned, solely, an automatic transmission and that I prefer manual.

Originally, we were supposed to live with walking distance of the store, and this coming week we will. But from the time since we’ve been here through the beginning of this week, we’re about eight miles away and taking the trolley (or tram as it’s called here) entails a pretty long walk at the other end, so they gave us a car to use ($6.00/gallon for gasoline, but, hey, we asked for this) until we move.

People who know me know that I’m a lot of things but I’m no dope. I got in the car, turned it on and went to shift gears. I looked down at the gear box and saw this:

                            +

                            |

                            |

                            |

                            |

                  A---------o---------N

                            |         |

                            |         |

                            |         |

                            |         |

                            -         R

At the O in the center was the lever, but whatever direction I pushed it in, it always came back to center. I had a clue what the N and R were, but for a few minutes I was baffled by A, +, and -. We sat there for a bit while I moved the lever around and then I noticed that near the speedometer there was an LED display. When I moved the lever toward N, it said N, and similarly with R and A. I still didn’t know what A was. None of this movement of the lever affected the transmission, it seemed. There was never a hint of moving the car a little forward or backward. When I moved the lever toward + or -, the display changed to M1. Then it dawned on me. M is manual, A is automatic. So off we went. As we moved, the A on the LED display changed from A1 through A5. But if I moved the lever to A again, it changed to Mn (n being the number associated with the previous A) and I could shift manually by using + or -. To go back to automatic, smack the lever back to A and you’re golden.

The wipers are another thing. I can start them (which one has to do a lot here) and eventually I can stop them but I’m never sure if they’re really stopped or in intermittent mode. The rear wiper seems to have a sensor; when it’s wet it moves. When it’s really wet, it moves a whole lot faster. I haven’t found a way to turn it off except when I shut off the car.

The radio is the weirdest. I can turn the volume all the way down and after a while, the station goes to commercial and the volume comes back up. Once that happened at the start of a traffic report. The traffic reports start with a loud blast of a horn and I damn near jumped out of my skin!

It was easier getting used to driving on the left side in Ireland, than it is the horns of cars as they cut in front with no warning and the bicycles coming from every direction.

 

2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008