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Pamela MacNaughtan

I must admit, I’m pretty proficient with directions. I rarely get lost in North America, and I can normally find my way around; even if it has been months since the last time I was there.  My talent for knowing where I’m going, and not getting lost kind of ended when I was in Europe.

A Czech police officer

On our last morning in Prague Charlie and I decided we would take the car (which had arrived the night before) and drive to an Asian market on the outskirts of the city. So I looked up the address on my iPad.

It looked simple enough.

“Do you want me to drive?” Charlie asked as we walked to the car.

“Yeah, I could navigate. The route looks fairly simple”, I responded. Truth be told, I was nervous about driving. My brother gave me a couple lessons before I left Canada, but we were parked on a hill, and I have this ridiculous fear of rolling back into a car; thanks to the fact that I rolled down a hill during one of my lessons at home.

So, Charlie got in the driver’s seat, and I climbed into the passenger seat. I navigated us down the street, and onto the highway using the Google Maps app on my iPad. When we approached the highway intersection where we’d vere off towards the market, I navigated us in the opposite direction. Awesome. It was Charlie’s first day driving our car (after a few driving lessons in Romania), and she was nervous and more than a little tense. I scrolled through the map, looking for a way to turn us around.

“Okay, I think I can get us back on this road, but going in the opposite direction and back towards the exit to the market.” I told Charlie. I then spent I don’t even know how long navigating us down side streets (one of which turned out to be a bike path, and not a road). The car stalled. We had to turn around on hills. Charlie was visibly frustrated and stressed, and that made me stress about navigating, and OMG why did we leave the apartment, to drive to a market we have never been to, on the first day we have the car?!

When I finally had us back on the road, heading back to the first highway, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally! As we approached the intersection, I pointed to where I thought we needed to go. Charlie drove in that direction. OMG it wasn’t the right exit. Now we were heading back towards the apartment. Awesome.

More frustration. More stress.

We decide to give it another try, and get back on the highway, and when we get to the same intersection, I think I have finally got us on the right exit. Guess what? I was wrong! All I could think was “OMG, I want this to end. Now!”. We turn ourselves around and as we head back in the direction of the apartment, I suggest we give up. Charlie is stressed, and I have no clue where we’re suppose to go. We head back, and my brain kind of switches off. As we approach the exit for the apartment, I get cocky and point in the direction of where we’re suppose to go.

I was WRONG! “Are we suppose to be in a tunnel?”, ummmm…. NO!

Charlie drives, and I scramble to figure out where the hell we’re going, and how on earth we can get turned around. We end up in an older section of Prague. I look on the map, but the streets are short and windy. Charlie drives, and I panic, trying to find a route back to the apartment that is not completely confusing.

When I think I have the way back, I let Charlie know. We drive down a cobbled street. It’s narrow and we’re driving down hill. As we drive we see a police officer on the side of the road. When we sees us, he motions for us to stop. It turns out we’re driving the wrong way on a one way street.

A Czech ticket for driving the wrong way down a one way street

“Can you help me? I’m a new driver.” Charlie asks, begging the cop with her eyes; hoping he’ll climb into the car and turn it around himself. It doesn’t work. We get this stone cold face, and he repeats that we have to turn around and park the car. Crap.

Frustrations and stress have reached their peak. Charlie gets us turned around, but there was a lot of screeching, and stalling in the process. It’s one of those times when you just want to quit, and wash your hands of the entire situation. When we park, the police office comes to the car again.

“It’s my first time driving. She’s teaching me?” Charlie says. Awesome, now I’m her scapegoat. He doesn’t buy it. We were going the wrong way on a one way street.

“The fine is 10,000 Czech Kroner”, he states. OMG that is like $430!

“We don’t have 10,000!” We reply in a panic.

“But that is the fine”, then he comes back with “Okay, for you it is 2,000 Czech Kroner.”

“We don’t have 2,000 Czech Kroner”, we say, pulling out our wallets and showing him how little money there is.

The police officer takes a minute to think, then says “Okay, do you have 500 Czech Kroner?”. Yes, we do. 500 is way better than 10,000. As the officer writes the ticket, he asks for Charlie’s license. Guess what? She doesn’t have it. It’s at the apartment. This doesn’t go over well. Charlie is driving! Luckily I have my license on me. He walks over to the car and takes it from my hands, then writes the ticket in my name, and I end up paying the fine. Charlie doesn’t even offer to pay half. I guess it’s my fault that I didn’t see the one way sign?! Yeah, whatever.

The police officer finishes the ticket and hands it to me. I notice the 500 Czech Kroner price on the ticket, and laugh to myself. At least we paid what we were suppose to pay and didn’t get taken for a ride! I look at Charlie, waiting for her to drive away.

“I can’t drive back now, he’s watching us. You have to drive” Charlie says to me. Great. We’re parked on a steep-ish hill, and I have to drive us back to the apartment.

I get out of the car, walk around and climb into the driver’s seat. I put my foot on the clutch, and my other foot on the gas. I take the parking break off. I turn the car on. I freak myself out because I’m on a hill, I’m stressed, and I just know I’m going to back into the car behind us. I start to panic and turn the car off. A few minutes later I try again. The fear builds, Charlie tries to make me feel better, but it doesn’t work, I start crying. I’m tired. I’m emotionally spent. I just want to be back at the apartment and the day to be over. Unfortunately it’s not even noon yet, we are nowhere near the apartment, and we have to drive to Klenova in the afternoon; which is like 2 hours away.

I gather my nerves, take the parking break off, start the car, and manage to drive up the hill without rolling back, or screeching the tires. Why in the hell did I freak out?!

Thankfully the rest of the drive was smooth, and with my iPad in hand, Charlie navigated us back onto the road that lead to the apartment. This was not how I had envisioned our first day of driving, and I think I can safely say that both of us were a little worried about the fact that the Mongol Rally had not even started yet!

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