Sunday, January 09, 2005

The craziest day of my life

I now realize how dangerous was to do these things mid-May last year. In one sentence, I drove uninsured in Manhattan. But there is much more to this story.

I had to go to Brookhaven in Long Island to work on an upcoming experiment regarding my research (multibunch wakefield accelerator). My flight was until JFK, so I had to rent a car in order to get to the lab. I thought that since I would have the car, and I have never been to NY before, why not take an early flight and drive in the city first, and then go to Brookhaven. The catch is, I had only driven manual cars in my life, AND I hadn't driven since January. They gave me an automatic car, the transmissions were on the side of the steering wheel (never used that before!) and the car was HUGE! (some Buick thing). Oh, and I had never driven in the states before...

My point is that I was considered a very very bad driver at the moment. Being sure that I would crash somewhere, I ask the guy in the rental office about insurance. He responds something like "This is taken care of". What he meant was that my insurance company would pay if something happened, and this is indeed the case in 99.9% of the cases because people that rent cars there usually have already another car in the states and therefore they have insurance. But I didn't have insurance on my own, and I thought with these words that it is included in the price, so I didn't request anything else. In reality, I needed to ask specifically for insurance and pay extra, but I didn't know that. So I left with the car, uninsured, thinking that I am insured!

Not only that, but instead of taking a safe way to the lab I went straight to downtown Manhattan! (with a huge car, unexperienced, uninsured!). Now, you need to have driven there to see how crazy the place is regarding drivers. In was even worse than Athens. Huge trucks, taxi drivers, speeding crazy people, pedestrians crossing the roads anywhere without warning, oh my god! And you need to decide fast where you are going because you may find youself into a tunnel exiting the island before you know it. And my head was outside the window most of the time since I wanted to look at the scyscrapers. The place scared the hell out of me, but I was calm since I knew I had insurance...

You realize that the probabilities of me crashing were high, and I may have turned out to be in debt for life. Thankfully nothing happened, and I only realized that I was driving uninsured when I rented another car and the lady explained to me that I had to ask specifically for insurance. It is clear to me now that what I did was insane; I think it was the red-eye flight that didn't let me sleep and as a result I couldn't think normally.

Next time I go there I will do the exact same thing. However, I will get insurance, I will get a smaller car, and now I know how to drive an automatic well. On top of that, I now know Manhattan like the palm of my hand thanks to the Apprentice.