This weekend was moving weekend for me; I had only a couple of days to move all my items from North Sydney to Bondi Beach, and also had to stock up on any furniture I hadn’t ordered the weekend before (including such things as a fridge). In order to accomplish this as simply as possible, I decided to rent a moving van from the local Budget rental office.
I’ll be honest, I was minorly panicked at the idea of driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road. When they asked if I wanted to class up to the higher insurance, I anxiously took them up on the offer – something I never normally do.
I was meeting a friend who was helping me back at my apartment after I picked up the car, and I’d had the sense to choose the rental agency that was within two blocks from my North Sydney apartment, where I’d take it back and have him drive it for the first few hours of the day, so I could warm up to the idea of doing it myself. The morning went off without a hitch, I collected a dining table and chairs that I’ll be DIY-ing into something really cute (I hope) and carried a load of my boxes down to the new place in Bondi. After that, it was showtime for me.
I enlisted the help of another friend, to be my copilot, help with directions and yell at me if I was veering into oncoming traffic. As we jumped into the car, I noticed with chagrin a familiar looking white slip of paper tucked under the windshield wiper. My driving companion pulled it off the windshield and we learned that the area I had left the van while I was unpacking a few boxes and getting lunch required a pay ticket. My inability to decipher the Bondi parking sign was going to cost me a cool $99 (yes, everything is more expensive in Sydney. And I though Seattle parking tickets were bad!).
The rest of the afternoon was pretty successful, I navigated back to the home decorators mall and picked up some bedside tables, lamps, and all sorts of cute accessory-type items as well as bedding and towels. For kitchen items I was told that Kmart was the place to go (the prices are ridiculously low, and Kmart hasn’t completely failed here in Oz like it has in the US. I would say it’s likely because Walmart doesn’t exist down here). This led to a comedy of errors.
First, I pulled into the parking garage and realized the van was too tall to fit under the height restriction bars they put in to ward off people like me who want to come clean out the store. And there was no way to back out of the area I had pulled into without hitting a pedestrian or oncoming traffic. It was also impossible to turn around. I was stuck. Annie and I started to panic, but a nice man working the car detailing line in the parking garage came over and held up the restriction bar the extra two inches needed for me to pass through. And thankfully, it was the lowest point in the whole garage.
Feeling a little silly and embarrassed after a series of similar mistakes I’d made earlier in the day (blocking traffic as I realized I was in the wrong lane a little too late, nearly forgetting which side of the road I was supposed to be on when making a right turn, etc.), I was laughing about something to Annie as I swung around the tiny circular passageway that led to the level below, and heard the sound no car renter wants to hear: “Cruunnnch.” Yep. I swiped the wall. My lack of cognizance that the bulk of the giant vehicle I was driving was to my left had finally bitten me in the ass.
I spent most of the next hour beating myself up for it and thanking myself for having the good sense to get extra insurance while purchasing all the items for my new kitchen. We made it back to my apartment without incident, unloaded all the crap, and I left the car parked (with full payment this time), and opted to take the train back to my North Sydney apartment instead of try to brave driving the Harbour Bridge on my own, alone, at night. Especially after doing damage like this:
The next day was more of the same, running all over picking up items with yet another friend to take advantage of the time with a giant car (I now owe nearly every friend I’ve made in this city help with moving), and I realized about halfway through the day that I’d actually gotten the hang of this. Sure, the first day had its setbacks, but on day 2 I’d learned from all those mistakes and had figured out how to navigate this vehicular juggernaut around the tiny lanes and crappy drivers in Sydney. I also learned I never wanted to drive regularly in this city either, and my decision to not buy a car here was thoroughly validated. So great lessons all around.
I’m still sleeping in North Sydney since my commute to work is about 30 seconds on foot, and I’m not looking forward to the 50+ minutes it’s going to take once I live near the beach. But all of my things except the clothing I’ll be wearing for the next couple of days are in my apartment, which is awash with cardboard and the instructions for furniture assembly (I’m happy to report I was able to put my bed together entirely on my own, which was no small feat). I’ll be chipping away at this for the next couple of weeks, trying to turn this massive mess into the cute girly beach pad I have in my mind.