I feel officially grown up because my license and I are both old enough to rent a car! I rented a car for 24 hours this weekend when my mum and sister visited. My mum only drives automatic, and I was a little surprised to find, but glad too, that it worked out cheaper for me to rent a manual with the young persons’ surcharge than for her to rent an automatic! I felt so cool walking into the rental car office and having them check my license and just hand me the key to the Vauxhall Astra!
I’ve only driven manual probably 5 times since passing my test (I’m really thankful that my dad insisted that I learn manual and have a manual license, and that I was stubborn enough to keep failing till I passed), and one of those 5 times was with my mum so she compared (when she visited York and I drove a Car Club car to York Designer Outlet). She says I have improved massively. I’ve driven the cars in Geneva/Switzerland loooads since then, so that’s helped my general driving confidence.
I’ve always been scared of driving in London. I learnt how to drive in Wales and Yorkshire…where people are so polite, country roads, not very crowded…and Geneva and France had huge roads with other drivers who follow laws (ok, not France…but big roads…and automatic made up for it). London and Kolkata and Dhaka are all filled with aggressive city drivers and I’ve always been scared of it, but I did it!
I picked up the car from Marble Arch, drove home, (parallel) parked, drove us to Slough, (parked in a bay), drove us back from Slough, slept 4 hours, drove to Gatwick to drop them off at the airport, drove back to Central London, parallel parked THREE TIMES while trying to figure out where to refill the tank, asked for help to refill the tank…, returned the car in Marble Arch!
Pro tip: to open up the fuel thingie, the doors need to be unlocked and you need to press it at the sides until it pops open. I also took tons of time looking through all the paperwork to make sure I put in the right type of gas.
I really liked the car. It didn’t have ANY add-ons (I didn’t ask for GPS), only radio, unfortunately the USB thing was broken so I didn’t really listen to any music, I just sang to myself until Google Maps spoke to me (classic me). But the clutch control was amazing. I suck at clutch control and during the entire 23 hours of having the car, I only stalled once and that was when I was still getting used to the car. Also the fuel efficiency was amazing – I drove so much, 160 miles, and the petrol only cost £18, and I wasn’t even trying to be fuel efficient (I was too scared of stalling so most of the times I didn’t put the car on neutral and put the parking break up, and I didn’t use the cruise control either)…
Parallel parking successfully was a big deal for me because just last week in Geneva, I was trying to park my parents’ BMW X3 in the middle of lunch break (lots of traffic)…I only attempted twice, but I just couldn’t do it. The BMW was being sold the next day so there was also a lot of pressure to not mess up the car. Someone from a nearby UN office parked the car for me, and my dad walked over just as he finished parking, so I’ve been hearing loads about it…Our Volvo XC60 in Geneva has a parking camera which makes it super easy to park with it. Both of the cars are just so big. With this rental car, I took my time, put the wing mirrors down so I could see all of the lines. It was such a small car, the same as the cars I learnt to drive in, I could properly gauge the distances, which I don’t think I ever properly learnt with our big cars (or had to learn because there weren’t many tight spaces there).