I sat the theory driving test recently.  I meant to go through the entire thing last year, but so many things kept coming up, so it was put off and put off.  When I heard about the new “case studies”, I wanted to sit the exam before they were introduced.  When that didn’t happen, I tried to download the updates from the practice software we had from previously.  The updates didn’t install properly, so we were forced to buy the latest software.[ad#ad-1]

What a joke!  It was such a waste of time and money to get the new software.  Maybe the case studies were meant to give young drivers something more to think about than just rote memorisation of facts, but in the end, the questions were no different.  You didn’t even need to read the case studies to answer them.  I only read them for my own amusement.  I thought the makers of the practice exams probably got it wrong since they might not know what the case studies were about. But when I got into that exam room and saw the case study at the end, I nearly burst out laughing.

The other point I found amusing was that they allowed people to take the exam in other languages.  Now, how is that supposed to make the roads safer?  We’ve seen drivers out there blatantly disregarding road signs and signals and we wondered if they were “foreigners” who didn’t understand.  Of course, they could have been natives who blatantly disregard road etiquette, but it does make you wonder.  Furthermore, we saw a story recently about people who make the stupidest excuses to avoid paying fines and some try to pretend they don’t understand the language.  Well, if they made it a requirement that people can only get a UK driving license if they do it in English, maybe they can remove that poor excuse.

One of the difficulties of living in a country where they drive on the other side of the road is remembering which way to look for oncoming traffic.  Of course, you look both ways, but when you cross into the middle, you need to know which side to watch.  I am starting to adjust.  However, my problem now is always remembering “the other side of the road”.[ad#ad-1]

When I first came here, I used to remind myself that I have to look the opposite way that I was used to.  I have become adjusted to being a passenger on the left side and seeing cars going down the left side of the road.  However, that reminder still pops into my head, and now it’s gotten to the point where I am looking to the opposite of the opposite and I have to stop and really think it through.  It becomes very frustrating, especially because sometimes you have a very narrow opportunity for crossing the road.  (Though most places have crosswalks, sometimes it’s too far out of your way to cross there.)

I don’t know when I’ll have adjusted enough to just take it for granted that I am looking in the right direction.  Sometimes, I see people, whom I consider natives, who make the same mistakes.  Of course, they might also be foreigners, or they might just be careless/forgetful.

It’s taken almost a year for me to get to this point.  And I’m not even driving.  It’s so appropriate that I bring up this topic today because the people of Samoa are about to experience what I’ve experienced this past year.  Only, they will all experience it collectively and will have to adjust in a shorter time period.

The people in Samoa have to make the switch from right-hand driving to left-hand driving in one day – today.  They will have a two-day holiday to get people adjusted.  Some critics are complaining about the lack of preparation, with the roads (not to mention the people) not being ready for the change, and the resultant increase in car crashes.  I really feel for them.  I can’t imagine what would happen if the UK were to ever decide to switch like that.  Since Samoa is many hours ahead of us, I wonder how things went over there today.

Our oldest daughter had an eye exam yesterday.  She had been complaining of not seeing far very well.  At first, it seemed like she was pretending, just to get glasses.  But soon, she started to complain more.  Finally, we booked her in for an eye exam.  Before we could get in, one of her teachers noticed that she had trouble seeing the board from her seat, which is located near the back.  (She was placed there due to her academic abilities.)  So, I was prepared to hear that she would need glasses, at least for distance vision.

And she did.  What I was not prepared for was the NHS benefits for those under 16.  Not only was the eye exam free, but she automatically qualified for a voucher for her glasses.  This entitled her to free or reduced-price eyeglasses.  There was no paperwork to fill out, no claims to make, no declaration of financial need.  All children under 16 have these basic entitlements.  It was wonderful.  It wasn’t too long ago that I had my own eyes checked at the optician’s and had to buy new glasses, so I was well aware of the costs involved.

I completely understand the attraction of free medical care and it is a big plus in the UK. I have not experienced medical care here, so I cannot comment on the quality.  However, I wouldn’t expect it to be any different from the US.  The natives may complain of the wait in some cases, but that does not sound too different from the US, either.  Of course, there are lots of taxes over here.  But if you expect certain fundamental benefits, that is one of the things that must be accepted.

The other thing I was not prepared to hear was that she will need an eye exam every 6 months until her vision stabilises.  Apparently, children’s eyes can change quite drastically in a short time. (Sigh.)  I can’t imagine going through childhood with glasses.  I know many do, but in my family, those of us wearing glasses did not need them until adulthood.  She can’t wait to get her glasses.