When it comes to driving, I can be considered a late starter. At 17, most of my friends knew how to drive. Whether they were driving legally, that's a diferrent story.
Back then, I couldn't care less about learning how to drive. There was no pressure. This may be due to the fact that my family had only one car. Even if I had learnt to drive, the car was always being used by my father. Except for night time.
My parents were strict. My siblings and I were brought up with a lot of rules thrown upon us. So, back then, going out at night to hang out with friends was something we didn't get to do often. I simply couldn't imagine my parents allowing me to drive for a rendevous with my friends at that time.
Motorbike was (and still is) a big no to my mother.
You see, my mother was a nurse. She worked in the HUKM surgery clinic at HKL. She'd seen every imaginable injury from motorbike accidents. Hence, the motorbike phobia.
So, at 18, when I pursued my Diploma in Shah Alam, I felt I was the only male student on campus who neither knew how to drive nor ride a motorbike. And to make it even more malufying (embarassing), I was a KL boy. Hey, back then, a city boy was expected to at least know how to ride a motorbike.
Eventually, I did learn how to ride a bike, thanks to my room mate, Ridhuan. But I remember I wasn't particularly excited about it.
My first ever experience driving a car was in the U.K. My housemate, Buntal (nama samaran sebenar), had allowed me to drive his car in a large vacant parking bay. Okay.... it was an automatic transmission car. It made everything easier.
I was excited. Buntal was nervous.
Months later, I had my first formal driving lessons from a certified driving instructor. I opted for the automatic car. In the U.K, you could get a driver's license specifically for automatic cars.
Pemandu Cacat (disabled driver) was the term my friends fondly used on me.
So, my early driving experience was in the U.K where almost everyone followed the rules on the road. As far as I could remember, they were civilised drivers. It was such a pleasant experience driving in the U.K.
When I came back to KL, the situation was the total opposite. You'd get people tail-gating you so close that you could see their nasal hair from your rear view mirror. They would abruptly change lanes for no apparent reason. Zebra crossings were merely black & white paint on the roads which bears no meaning. Yellow lights meant to increase acceleration. Upon reaching a roundabout, they'd be in the far right lane and do a 9 o' clock. I could go on forever with this, you know.
Fortunately, my U.K driving habits stayed with me eventhough sometimes I do get complaints from my friends for driving by the rules (to them, I'm a slow driver).
Until this day, driving in Malaysia could get me so frustrated and stressful. That's why back in KL, I would only drive at night when there are less morons on the roads.
I used to believe that Malaysia must be the worst place on earth to drive.
Well.... that changed when I arrived in Jakarta.
I always wonder whether motorists in Indonesia receive any formal driving lessons. I say this because they seem to be doing everything wrong.
i) You're driving a car. You give out a signal to make a left turn. You look at your left view mirror for motorbikes. Wait for the stream of motorbikes to pass you before you could make that turn. Somehow, the motorcyclists think that they have the right of way.
ii) Driving at 60 km/h in the fast lane on a highway is acceptable. Don't worry about holding up traffic behind you because they would simply overtake you from the left lane. If all lanes are full, feel free to use the emergency lane for overtaking.
iii) The white lines on the roads are for decorative purpose. On a very heavy traffic day, 3 lanes of road would turn into 5 lanes. The traffic congestion term here is not only confined to "bumper-to-bumper" but also "side mirror-to-side mirror".
iv) When the above (iii) occurs, motorcylists are free to transform the pedestrian sidewalks/footpaths into motorbike lanes. Pedestrians are then expected to give way to the motorbikes by walking carefully on the edges of the footpaths. Those with bad balancing skills might end up in the clogged drains.
v) When the traffic lights turns red, it is actually still green for another 10 seconds or so.
vi) In the situation where you have carelessly passed 15 metres ahead of your grocery shop, don't bother making a u-turn. Feel free to put your car in reverse, and slowly reverse your way until you reach your stop. No one would honk at you. It would be a surprise if they do.
vii) When you've reached your destination in (vi) above and found that there is no parking space available, do not hesitate to park your car in front of the shop by taking up half of the sidewalk and another half of the road lane. Tip the ever present unofficial parking attendant handsomely and he would not mind directing the traffic, which would eventually build-up, because half of the lane have been blocked by your car.
viii) It's ok to ignore zebra crossings (a relief to Malaysian drivers).
viiii) When you are about to join the main road from an intersection, don't bother looking out for cars coming from the right. Just speed ahead. The oncoming traffic from the right would give way to you.
The above are some of the examples which I have witnessed myself.
I do have to say that Indonesian drivers are a patient lot. I always find myself shaking my head in disbelief when I encounter other drivers doing the silliest of things but Indonesians take it in their stride. Seldom showing anger or frustration.
How they do this is beyond me.