Wrong side of the road

look ma, i'm driving on the wrong side!I often tell the story of my driving experience in Ireland this past March, particularly the bits about adjusting to the opposite side, the random road signs and tiny (half-lane?) highways. I must have recounted these memories a dozen times, but a few days ago I had the strangest experience: as I was telling the story, the image in my head of driving along the Irish countryside was wrong somehow — I was driving on the left side of the car.

The more I thought about the trip, the more I realized that every memory had miraculously been reworked in my brain to have me driving American-style. Left-side drive, on the right side. When I got home I looked up photos from the trip and confirmed that indeed my recollection had been tampered with. Even more surprisingly, the more people I told about my memory failure, the more I realized that it’s not an anomoly of mine. Nearly everyone with a single experience of driving on the opposite side had adjusted their memories and put themselves on the wrong side of the car.

It makes sense from a technical perspective, namely that it’s easier to store memories as extensions of things we already know. Since driving on the left side of the road is a huge anomaly in my experience, it’s much easier to ignore that fact in the long run. Somehow the blending of old experiences and new has created a completely inaccurate picture. It definitely makes me think twice about trusting my mind’s eye.

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