Last week I finally got my German driver's licence (my Irish one had expired and then I couldn't collect the German one for weeks because I hadn't gotten my new passport back yet and German bureaucracy wouldn't accept the driver's licence they were giving me as a proof of identity). As soon as I had a valid licence again, I finally got around to doing something that I've been thinking about doing for years and more definitely since last October, when I finally met someone who used a car sharing program and was very happy with it. So I am now a member of Stadtmobil. I may join another program, just to have a bit of flexibility but for now I'm giving this one a go because one of the car parks they use is just down the road from me, which is very convenient.
I've just gotten back from my first trip and it all went smoothly. Except for the fact that I may have just gotten my first ever speeding ticket. There definitely was a flash of light at one stage but it was at a fairly busy junction so it's possible it was someone else. It was, however, a zone that had just changed from 80 to 60 a few hundred metres back but as I was concentrating on finding the right lane to get into (it was a building site on top of everything else), I hadn't adjusted my speed yet. So, if I get a ticket for driving about 15km/hr over the speed limit it's fair enough, since that's what I was doing. But after ten years of not one accident or ticket for anything, it'll be a bit crap that it happened on the first day driving on a German licence and the first time out in a car sharing car. Oh well.
I had the car for quite a long time as I wanted to get a few different things done. Unfortunately, most of them didn't quite work out the way I wanted. The lighting warehouse I went to didn't have anything that would fit in the room I want it for. There was one quite nice green light but it was too small and the larger one was a different shape that didn't appeal and had a grey stripe running through it which didn't appeal either. Then there was a simple white and black one that was lovely but not what I was looking for. And a simple white/translucent version of that which would have done. But I decided that 35 euro was a bit too much to pay for "it'll do" and walked away. If I'm going to go with a simple white one, I'm sure Ikea will have something for 5 or 10 euro that will also do.
Then it was on to the longer part of my journey, heading out of Dusseldorf and past Cologne to a place called Erftstadt with Der Tapetenmann (the wallpaper man) being the first stop. Except I took a wrong turn somewhere and spent over half-an-hour driving round in circles. Roundabouts here are not very well sign-posted and I only finally found where I wanted to go by stopping for a short break and then exiting each roundabout and turning to approach it from the other side (that was the only way to see some of the signposting). I pulled up outside the shop just as the two o'clock news was starting on the radio, only to see that the opening hours on Saturday are only until 14:00 and everything was already locked up with the lights out. I hung around outside, staring into the windows for a few minutes in the hope that if anyone was still in there, they might see me and come out again but I was out of luck. Maybe next week.
All in all, I'm fairly happy with the car sharing. If I have calculated correctly, the use of the car today for the length of time I had it and the distance I drove it will cost me around 55 euro. Given that I drove almost 150km, that's not too bad. If I had my own car I wouldn't have paid substantially less than that for just the petrol to do what I did today. For situations where it would just be handy to have a car for an hour, it is certainly going to be worth it. I did treat myself to a mid-sized car today but for most journeys just around town a small or mini sized one will do. But I couldn't resist the opportunity to drive a Beetle, silly as I think that make me. :)