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North America

When You Don’t Drive in the US for 14 Months

I think I’m bad luck.

On Monday evening, 24 hours after landing in NC from my short stint in Chicago, my friend, Kelly, asked if I wanted to meet for dinner in Durham. Kelly is my friend from high school and one of the only friends I had come visit me in India. We’ve been skyping and messaging about how excited we are to see each other.

Long distance
Kelly and I at the Taj Mahal in March

Kelly is a fantastic human being. One of those people that just seem to be in amazing mental health and one of those people you just know is always going to be there for you. Great person. Great Friend. Everyone should be friends with Kelly.

Durham, however, I feel less passionately about. It’s 30 minutes away from my parent’s house and I can’t say I was thrilled at the prospect of driving there. Here’s why:

  • My jet lag begins around 4pm. I’m awake enough to have a conversation with someone but driving takes much better reaction time than speaking.
  • I haven’t driven in 14 months and I was worried I forgot how
  • More importantly, when I’m in the car with my mom I tense up every 5 minutes because I think she is driving on the wrong side of the road or turning into traffic. India was a British colony and, unlike the US, didn’t protest British rule and celebrate their freedom by driving on the other side of the road.
  • It would be rush hour, meaning the traffic would be “crazy” by American standards (and totally fine for Indian standards).
  • I’m already not that familiar with Durham

I felt a bit like a drama queen not wanting to drive but I called Kelly and explained and she was very understanding and we decided to just go out in downtown Hillsborough (which is surprisingly “happening” now compared to when I grew up here).

Downtown Hillsborough
Downtown Hillsborough on a Wednesday night. Not bad!

But I need to start driving again. This isn’t India. I can’t afford to take 30-minute Uber rides just to go out to lunch anymore. Or to the gym. So yesterday Kelly called to see if I wanted to go to lunch with her at Bojangles.


Hillsborough Traditions
For my friends based outside the South, Bojangles is a southern food/cajun fast food restaurant. A slight obsession in Hillsborough. A favorite for any high school or church event.

Oh, Bojangles! I can manage that! That’s only 5 minutes down the road, it’s a Wednesday at noon so I won’t be tired and the traffic won’t be bad, and I know the area so well.

And so I set off on my next great adventure: driving through Hillsborough! The itty bitty Southern town with a maximum speed of 35 miles/hour and lots of traffic lights. This is a town that the elderly or poor of sight could easily navigate. It’s the best town to get your learner’s permit in. Naturally I imagined my own funeral.

But then getting behind the wheel felt totally natural. And I didn’t drive on the wrong side of the road at all! I did keep talking to myself and reminding myself which way to turn the car (there are literally two turns between my house and Bojangles). And I did keep eyeing pedestrians suspiciously. But then I pulled into the parking lot, underneath the glow of the bright yellow Bojangles sign to my destination. Hurrah! I’ve made it! A feat of unimaginable magnitude! A feat the size of moving to India by myself! A feat larger than climbing to Everest Base Camp! Wow! Everyone on my blog will be so impressed that I drove a motor vehicle 3 miles. Release the balloons! We are the Champions!

Kelly pretended to be proud of me for driving down the road. (See, I told you she’s a great friend). And then we had lunch, caught up, had some good conversations, plotted Rachel’s bachelorette weekend at the beach, etc…

And then Kelly had to return to work since she’s a real adult with a job. And I began my drive home. I took the back roads to avoid some of the “traffic” in town but when I got to my little street I remembered that a construction crew had captured it for the afternoon and was pillaging the pavement, meaning I couldn’t drive through to the other side. No issue. I’m cool. I know how to drive. So I drove around the block, back onto the main road, and made a left hand turn onto my street.

And then, 30 seconds from the house, as I was turning onto the street, a big white SUV turned and I heard a really loud THUD.

I just stopped for a second and prayed I had simply scraped the car’s 18-year-old under carriage on the bump at the beginning of the street. But then I looked back and the big white SUV that I had seen turning had stopped. So I pulled off.  Actually, after that, the SUV disappeared and at first I thought the woman ran away. But another car pulled up and a nice lady stopped to see if I was okay and told me the woman was just going around the block and coming back. She asked if I wanted her to wait with me. I told her my mom lived around the corner so not to worry. And then I called my mother, my poor, poor mother, who was so excited for me to come home, back to the safety of Hillsborough, off the dangerous mountains, out of my apartment that catches fire occasionally, away from scary Indian men….Yes, I had to call my poor mother on her BIRTHDAY and tell her, “Yeah….I got in a car accident….”

The accident wasn’t my fault actually. So that’s a plus! But the bumper (as you can see) was lying on the street. I also panicked for a second that I wasn’t on my parent’s car insurance plan (I’m covered, the car’s covered, everything is fine). When the white SUV pulled up I realized that the woman was actually my mom’s neighbor. Once she realized who I was she rushed over and gave me a hug and kept apologizing. She hit me going at about 1 mile/hr so we were all far from hurt. Actually, her car is so big, only her tire hit my car. And our car is so old the bumper just popped right off.

When my mom came out the neighbor was apologizing so much my mom went to hug and console her first. We did the whole “lets exchange insurance information thing” and then my mom walked behind the car holding the bumper on while I rolled it into our driveway. We are pretty sure, considering the car is 18, that this will total it. My mom is thrilled. She says we have too many old cars clogging the driveway and need to get rid of them. My Dad is threatening to buy it back, as he does. My dad and I suspect my mom actually paid my neighbor to wreck the car so she didn’t have to see it anymore.


Happy Birthday Mom! What a nice welcome back to the United States!


Today I am driving to Winston-Salem to see Sarah, my college roommate, another wonderful human being. Let’s all say a little prayer I make it without another incident!