Today’s lessons learned:
- It is easier to procrastinate about something than to just do it.
- Thinking about doing something scary is worse than actually doing it.
- It is easier to do something scary when someone else asks you to do it for them as a favour than it is to do it for yourself.
Last week Emma suggested she take me to a shop-cum-café in Chinatown called Peter Hoe. Apparently, it is one of the places to go in Kuala Lumpur and I certainly did not want to miss out. Our trip was set for this morning.
“You drive,” said Emma. “Then you will learn the route.”
“How far is it?” I asked. A simple enough question which means is it easy to get to for a novice driver like me?
“Five minutes,” she replied.
“Do I have to parallel park?”
“There’s a car park.”
Even I should manage that. Emma is amazingly tolerant. She also knows what is good for me. I agreed.
Only, yesterday, the air-conditioner breaks on her car.
“Could you take me to the garage to pick up the car after our trip?” she asks. “You can follow me home after.”
“Sure,” I reply. “No problem.” I forget to ask how far away it is. I omit to realize this means I will have to drive home, alone, from the garage, from a strange place. This will be the first time I have driven the car on my own. But Emma is my good friend and I owe her this return favour big time. So, I agree.
And so, this morning, we drive to Chinatown. Sorry, correction – I drive to Chinatown for the first time. Emma is patient and tolerant, careful to ensure I spot any holes in the road, traffic lights and parked cars. We park in an open air car park and walk a couple of blocks to Peter Hoe. By now I can feel my stress levels start to rise. In a couple of hours I will have to DO IT. As the countdown begins I try to enjoy looking at the lovely things in the shop and forget about the trial that will soon begin. I spend some money on pretty things. That helps. We have lunch and I realize that I am both ravenously hungry and have no appetite.
“Time to go,” says Emma.
“Where are we going by the way?” I ask.
“About fifteen minutes away. Not far.”
“Is it near anything I might know already?” My voice quavers a little.
“I doubt it. But you’ll be fine. You’ve got a TomTom, right?”
I do have a TomTom but so far I have not got used to the lady who speaks to me. When she tells me to keep left, I do so ever so obediently, but keep ending up taking the wrong road. “Recalculating,” she says over and over, rather seriously I find, in her American accent.
“Want some gum?” asks Emma as we take the lift down to street level.
I take a piece gratefully. I hate gum, but my subconscious knows that in cases like this it will be good to chew away some of my angst.
PJ, or Petaling Jaya, seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Emma goes to find out how her car is doing while I fiddle with TomTom and get it plugged in. I punch in the word Home and it tells me I need just eight minutes to get there. Fine, I think. Even I’ll manage that.
Emma reappears at the driver’s door. “Sorry,” she says. “It will be another 40 minutes. It’s OK, I brought a book. You can go.”
“Right,” I say as the realization dawns that I now have to drive in the car from a strange place, alone, for the first time and I have no one to follow. Yes, I know I am a complete wimp. I know that once I have done this there will never be a first time again. I also know, deep down, that I can cope. It’s the idea of it that is more scary than actually doing it. But I bravely do a quick U turn and head for home.
Within three minutes I have misunderstood the confusing American lady.
“Recalculating,” she says.
Surprisingly, I am calm. I just follow her instructions and am soon on the right road again. It happens again. I chew harder. The gum stopped being minty minutes ago.
Five times this happens! Five times I just say, “sod it but never mind,” and chew like my life depends on it.
The clock tells me that my eight minute journey has now taken more than 30. Do I care? Not a jot. I am in a part of town I recognize at last. I am doing it. I am almost home.
When I reach the barrier to our compound I wave my entry card at the gate with a flourish. Once I am through the barrier I raise my fist in the air and whoop. “I did it!” I grin like crazy and march back to our apartment puffed up with pride.
I send Emma an SMS to share my success story including the facts that I got lost five times and took more than three times longer than I should have done.
I am so sorry for putting you through it. I feel so guilty ::( she texts.
Don’t be sorry, I reply. It was GOOD FOR ME.