After the ‘Andalusia-Automotive Challenge’ where altruism never made our books (or rather Val and WT’s to be more precise), and where through a miracle we still had our eye balls in our sockets and no bruise marks on ourselves – short of saying we abandoned one another along the road in unknown cities, towns et cetera, but never inflicted bodily harm on each other – I must have woolens over my eyes to have enthusiastically agreed to driving around Tuscany with one half of the combo mentioned above (a.k.a WT).
… but how else to enjoy the rolling hills?
I had reasoned to myself.
As for the stick shift, I must have had rocks in my head to have simply forgotten the simple fact proven by Isaac Newton. Gravity.
rolling hills + stick shift = rolling backwards + mayday + mayhem
Anyways, booking made via Internet before we even left Malaysian soils, we walked some 500 metres from PISA International Airport to the car rental docks to get our Hertz car, with a 5.2kgs + 6.6kgs load on me – the heavier being my ‘toys’.
After the formalities of registering our licenses with a lady who had too much glittery cobalt blue eye shadows, who made sure we understood the fine prints (of Hertz’s choice … as we later found out that one has to pay tax upon tax when we made payment, which WT is ‘fighting’ for our 44Euros back in the tax upon tax) we were showed our car. Planning to split the driving between the two of us, where the girl (ahem) will take the easier tracks in the country side and the man (oh yes, the man!) will handle the tricky towns and cities, I was to take the wheels first.
Bored of ‘testing’ a stationery car (WTH?!? rite?) and getting used to left-hand drive, which was literally sitting on the left hand side of the car at this point in time, I decided to take even more boring, characterless photos of the Hertz car park.
where are the Ferrari-s and Lamborghini-s??? I wondered in silence as WT tried to register the UK line, or whatever else it was that I didn’t quite understand to get us hooked-up for GPS.
Unable to get a sim card upon arrival at Pisa International Airport, WT decides we’ll use the UK line – at a reap-off of £1/MB – to get us out of the car park, heading towards San Gimignano, while on the look out for a local Italian sim card possibily sold at petrol kiosk/garages or grocers along the way … but in time it was proclaimed:
“SHUCKS! We’re on our own without GPS”
jeng jeng jeng (sound effects) … the drama begins, or so I thought.
Very quickly, our planS were aborted. After going in circles around the airport and the highways leading out for over an hour, it was decided that:
SHUCKS! We’re seriously SCREWED without a GPS
Mutterings of “How did we survive Spain without GPS?” was offered, to which I decided to let it pass rather than retorting with the obvious, “We had a Michelin driving map that was extremely detailed” in fear of inciting anything even remotely close to the ‘Andalusia-Automotive Challenge’. No way was I going to allow myself to be hooked in at such an early stage. We have 4 days of driving and this is only the first hour.
I shall wire my brain the reverse way, embracing Daniel Pink all the way!
No way was I going to navigate. NEVER.
No way will I be able to get my head around the Google maps, or rather bits and pieces of the google maps that were searched, saved printed by WT. To be honest, whilst the link was provided to me at least 8 to 10 weeks before this fateful day for me to ‘study’, I had not even bothered to double click my mouse on it, thinking he’s got it all settled and who needs maps these days when there’s the annoying but absolutely necessary GPS?
But with the reverse brain works … ahhh… that I can master given my innate ability to execute technical things with precision. Having said that, trust me, its macho talk here, on my part. Getting use to left-right, right-left car and traffic system is one thing. Getting accustomed to a low and small sedan car was probably the harder bit having driven Land Rovers for years now. For the life of me, I can’t see so many things. Where does my car end? How wide and long is it? Which mirror do I look at? Why isn’t there an image? WHAT?!? No reverse sensor? Despite all these craziness I decided I ain’t going to own up on this fact and I know with 300% certainty that driving is going to be easier than navigating.
So that was settled.
I was the self designated driver
(who got bored occasionally and stepped out to play with my favourite ‘toy’)
And WT continues to make sense of the wriggly lines, predicting which lanes I should keep on, especially in the bigger cities like Sienna and Firenze (Florence), which wasn’t easy. Poor fella!
.Photo © Penelope Haque – Rolling hills with acres and acres of vineyards between Sienna and Florence – All Rights Reserved
.Photo © Penelope Haque – Country side roads flanked by olive trees or vineyards along Sienna and Florence … still no signs of Ferrari-s and Lamborghini-s, but we came across a lot of AUDIs, BMWs, RANGE ROVERs and the occasional Mercedes Benz – Sports model though – All Rights Reserved
Photo ©© Penelope Haque – Lucca, a quiet town near Pisa, our final day of driving before returning the car at Pisa – All Rights Reserved
As for the drama, none really happened. Partly I think its because of my uncanny ability to remain calm. I have observed that I am the calmest when calamity strikes, where my brain automatically goes into auto-pilot mode of action planning and execution.
So, what’s driving and making a few wrong turns?
We weren’t all that sweet and lovey-dovey; there were moments I visualised smacking his head. There were moments I had to literally bite my tongue from screaming or shouting:
‘damn you! I am an equal partner here.
I am f$&!-ing driving this goddamn piece of junk metal which I can’t see out off half the time
and can’t feel the clutch.
Without me, you wouldn’t get there either!’
But on the whole I made an effort to make mr.wrapped-up-in-wriggly-tangled-lines ease his pent up frustrations or I’ll continue driving in silence when the occasional blow-up happens (a few times on Day 1 and twice on Day 4); blow-ups that are targeted to himself.
Was I trying to prove Val wrong?
That WT and I could survive a road trip?
That the ‘Andalucia-Automotive Challenge’ will not repeat?
For a person who has been classified as “reactive . hot tempered . perfectionist” in my Workplace Big 5 traits, I made a conscious decision to use my self awareness to my advantage.
I reckoned WT, possibly have the same traits as me, judging by his behaviour and actions. Sensing this, I knew exactly how he felt with every wrong instruction that resulted in a wrong turn or us going in circles. Figuring that its pointless to have “reactive . hot tempered . perfectionist” multiplied by two in a very small space, and deciding not to have my first vacation in 2010 ruined, I made many positive remarks that I would once had snorted at and sprinted in the opposite direction when uttered to me. I also gave thanks and appreciation where it was due, praising where necessary… for one, they were genuine and sincere, but more importantly I felt it needed to be expressed.
What have I turned into?
A green monster I no longer recognise? A sexy pretty green I hope.
But, surprisingly, I am indeed happier and ‘lighter’
My personal coach would be delighted!
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though between you and me, I did text my mom and a friend travelling in London and Prague at the expense of RM 2 – 4 per sms every time the rough gets going …
i’m still human
I’m still the “reactive . hot tempered . perfectionist“ Penelope.
Our personality traits do not go away… it’s behavioural modification and management.
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.Photo © Penelope Haque – General ‘condition’ of all cars in Tuscany. This is NOT ‘ours’ though – All Rights Reserved
..Photo © Penelope Haque – the ‘SOLUTION’ to the above problem – All Rights Reserved