Adventures in Cars

Before I get underway with the regaling you with tales of my misfortunes in driving, I ought to establish that I can technically drive. It is legal, at least, for me to take my little yellow Ford KA and trundle it down any road I please. As long as I’m not trespassing or exceeding the speed limit or anything. Indeed, I drove myself to and from school for nearly a year with next to no problems. I am just slightly scared of roads and cars, and would prefer if everyone could stick to nicer modes of transport. Unicycles for instance.

My license was only awarded to me after my third driving test. They were all a little traumatic, but I know the number of serious (immediate fail) faults I got on each. The first time I got three, the second I got one (and it should probably have been a minor), the third I, obviously, got none. My driving instructor did tell me after I had passed that he wouldn’t have passed me, but I was crying quite a bit and really didn’t care. I could now ditch the school-bus forever, and belt out as many Disney tunes as fit into the 15 minute drive to school, as loud as I wanted.

The tests aren’t, however, the beginning of this particular story. Indeed, my decision to learn to drive, and the process I underwent to get there, taught me a great deal about myself. It probably brought out the worst in me in all honesty. I learnt that I can be argumentative, stubborn, and exceedingly obtuse. Of course I only had quite so many arguments with my first driving instructor because I didn’t understand how everything worked. I couldn’t accept that things did things and that was just the way it was. This ‘curiosity’ led to many an argument, and I eventually switched driving instructors.

The switch was not clean-cut, as I had paid the first guy in advance, so still had a few lessons left with him. He never mentioned it, but I’m fairly sure he knew I was ‘cheating’ on him. My outstanding guilty conscience has never let me forget that, although I’m sure he wasn’t particularly attached to me. I was never very nice to him. The second guy, Glenn, was lovely. One of my friends had him before me (and at the same time), and he allowed me to see that it’s easier if you leave your curiosity at the door. I’m probably a better driver when I’m not paying too much attention to it actually. I like to think that this is why I failed my tests, not because I was bad, but because I was too focussed…

Okay, so that’s a lie, even passing third time was definitely a fluke. They do say that you really learn how to drive when you’re doing it alone though. I think this has probably been the case.

Now you’re aware of the trauma that was the lessons, it’s time to hear about the shambles of the tests. The first test was taken after a holiday in Croatia. I’d already done my theory test, passed first time, more my speed than driving. My examiner was a grouchy old man wearing a fluorescent vest. People will tell stories of one person at every test centre who is horrid, never passes anyone, Argus Filch type character. For my particular test centre, this was the guy. I don’t blame him for failing me though. Although I disagree that I pulled out in front of someone at the roundabout (thus failing within 3 minutes of starting the test), I did drive on the wrong side of the road for a time. I didn’t actually notice until afterwards when my instructor told me. Apparently give way arrows are not arrows in the traditional sense, and if you follow them the way they’re pointing, you’ll end up on the wrong side of the road. It’s all very confusing and unfair (in my humble opinion). Perhaps look up ‘UK give way symbols’, figure out what they do, and tell me, because I still have no clue. The third major was for reverse parking by the way. I had been utterly defeated and had also forgotten how to reverse park (a skill I have not once repeated). After trying for 5 minutes, I just reversed and parked and left it slap bang in the middle of a white line. Whoops.

The second test was simpler and will not take a massive paragraph to tell the story of. I had a delightful woman testing me and we went on a lovely route. We chatted, it was all great. Then… Then she distracted me with her nice chatter, and I went too fast around an unexpected corner. I really didn’t deserve to fail because I showed excellent adapting skills and didn’t crash. We talked less after that because I asked her if I’d failed and she refused to tell me. They do refuse to tell you, it’s quite annoying actually. I think it’s meant to stop you stopping the car, getting out, and yelling at them to drive the rest of the way. In actuality I was sorely tempted all three times.

The third time was moderately successful in that I passed but probably didn’t deserve to. I recognised the long, grey face of the examiner from my first shambles of a test (sorry if you’re reading this… it’s very definitely exaggerated and you’re very nice, thanks for passing me). There’s not much to say other than that I was convinced I had failed. I got reversing around a corner for my maneuver which is pretty easy ordinarily, but becomes an Olympic event when your foot is shaking at 100 mph. I definitely asked him whether I had failed already or not, he wouldn’t tell me. All in all, however, it was a success. The jury is out over whether he passed me because I drove well, or because I was so much better than the first time, but I passed and that’s all that matters.

In a year and a half or so of driving, I have had relatively few scares. I wouldn’t say that I’m a success story, but rather that I’ve resisted the temptation many a time to abandon my car, and have never given up even when the driving (or more accurately parking) got hard. The yearbook award of ‘worst driver’ was awarded to me, but this is mainly because of my parking ability. When I’m in a car I have a complete lack of spacial awareness, which is an issue for me only when it comes to parking. Also when I’m driving down a street and it’s quite tight. I’ve never hit anything but I live in fear.

Two particular occasions – which surface every time I bring out my driving history as a little light comic relief – happened in the school car park. The first of these was less serious, more impressive. I managed to get the car so that it was inside the lines of the bay, but diagonally. Indeed, almost horizontally. The issue came as I tried to straighten it out but there were two cars either side. I didn’t so much as scratch them, but eventually the wing mirrors meant I had to stop trying to make things better. Had I carried on I would have knocked either mine or theirs off. I was only laughed at for about a week… it was fine.

The second occasion was less laughable. It was snowing (to set the scene and give myself a tiny excuse) so I wanted to get closer to the school with my car so I’d have less far to walk in the snow. This meant I had to park between two cars. Two out of three times this goes badly for me apparently. I’ve only done it three times. As I brought the car around, I hit the car on the left hand side with my front bumper thing. Naturally… I kept going (facepalm). The noise is something no one should ever have to experience. Long story short, my bumper fell off – but was still attached by one bolt or something – so I couldn’t exactly drive away and deny all knowledge. I still went to choir rehearsal after letting reception know what I’d done. Some random lady got a tearful apology because I thought it had been her car, it was not her car. A bar of chocolate saved the day and my no-claims thing.

Driving is pretty useless. It’s bad for the environment, it’s scary, and it’s expensive. If you can’t get at least a good story out of it, however, then you’ve probably done it wrong. Actually you’ve probably done it right and actually deserve your license, but I’m willing to accept my anecdote as a small victory.

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