Friday, April 4, 2008
Good thing I'm a Lefty!
Here she is! My sweet ride for the next few years. It's actually a lot more car than I expected my company to provide. It's a Subaru Forester. If you can't tell from the picture, it's blue with a black and tan interior. It's an automatic, but when you hit the gas, it moves pretty well. The only real problem with it is that the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car.
Pretty much everything driving related is on the wrong side in Singapore. The shifter (?what do you call the stick in an automatic?) is on the left, I have to look left to look in the mirror, even the radio buttons are backwards. When I drive, I find myself drifting left because my body wants to be on the left side of the lane. At least I haven't killed anybody yet.
All kidding aside, I'm picking it up very quickly. I'm having more trouble remembering which way to look when I walk across the street than I am driving. It helps that the road signs here are very good. It's almost impossible to get lost. Of course, when an island country is only 25 miles wide, you can only get so lost. Pick a direction, if you hit the water, you went too far.
The other thing about driving here that is different is that you are constantly paying for little things automatically. See this little beauty?
It's called an "In-vehicle unit" or IU for short. It's got a little radio unit in it that talks with sensors hanging above certain parts of the highway or downtown heavy traffic streets that are considered toll areas. You can't miss them when you drive by, there's a huge sign and the IU beeps to tell you you just lost money.
To make it available for folks not financially able to open a bank account, instead of tying it to a credit card like you would in the US, you buy a "cash card" at 7-11 that you have to put in it for it to work. Of course, if everyone has these cash cards, enterprising people will think of a way to get some of that money from you. Pretty much anywhere you want to park in Singapore, you have to pay. How do you pay? Cash card! The entry to the lot has the same kind of transponder that the highway tolls do. It scans you when you enter and then again when you leave. Usually costs you about S$1/hr depending on where you are. In a week I've been charged about S$15. That's actually about the same as I was paying in toll road charges in Houston though, so I guess I can't complain.
That's all for today.