How I got to sit on the lap of a cab driver

Despite the friendly reminders to "Look right!" on the pedestrians crossing, it is hard to change an old habit. Photo: Simon Hoffmann Petersen

Despite the friendly reminders to “Look right!” on the pedestrians crossing, it is hard to change an old habit.
Photo: Simon Hoffmann Petersen

Being accustomed to driving in the right side of the road can get you into all sorts of trouble, if you decide to leave home sweet home behind to spend time in the “Land of Hope and Glory”.

By: Simon Hoffmann Petersen

London, England: It takes no more than a two hour flight from Aarhus, Denmark before you can find yourself in a, as Disney’s Aladdin would put it, whole new world, or as I would put it – quite a predicament.

You see, 25 years of looking “left, right, left” before passing a busy road have left indelible traces, and to let go of such a habit – even just for a weak – seems to downright impossible. So right from the get go you are jeopardising your own life when trying to find your way around the London traffic, leaving you with no choice but to rely primarily on taxi’s, or the subways (where you rarely risk being run over because of your lack of alertness.)

Please don’t mistake me for a fool – it is not, that I am not aware of the Brits driving in the wrong side of the road. But whenever I am about to cross a road, a conflict arise in my head going a little something like this.

– Eyes to brain, seems like we’ve got a road to cross.
– Roger that, eyes. Now I remember something about them driving in the left side, so we should probably …
– OH HELL NO, eyes. I’m habit, and I won’t let this decision go down without a fight. NOW LOOK LEFT.

This most often leads me to look frantically from side to side to side to side (you get the picture), hauling across the road, barely dodging a bike in the process, before collapsing on the opposite pavement and thanking whatever is up there for still being alive.

The lap incident
Besides driving in the “wrong” side of the road, some ingenious car manufacturer decided to take it just a step further, and placing the steering wheel in the right hand side of the car, thus making sure, that no European tourist EVER will decide on renting a car.

Since I am no magnificent driver anyway, I quickly decided on public transportation, and throw in a cab or two in the mix, I should be able to move around England without embarrassing myself too much – or, that’s what I thought.

Following an interview in Milton Keynes, I had the pleasure of splitting a cab with two gentlemen, who was also heading for the Central Station. Since they knew each other, it seemed only right for them to continue their conversation in the back seats of the black cab, so I headed directly for the right hand front seat, opened the door, and was well more than halfway in “my” seat, before I saw the terror in the dark brown eyes of our designated driver.

I flung out the door in shock, hurried to the passenger’s seat, and acted as if nothing had happened, but our chauffeur wasn’t letting me of that quickly. Luckily he did see the fun of the situation, and it actually worked as quite an icebreaker between all four us, chatting it up about sports, comfort food and – most important of all – traffic habits. We ended up agreeing on, that changing the side of driving in England, would probably lead to bigger accidents, than a Dane taking place on the lap of a taxi driver.