Wednesday, 28 January 2004

The Dreaded Driving Test

A colleague of mine is having their driving test today. She's been learning for what seems like months, was first given a test date in December but was lacking in confidence to do it then so postponed it. Her driving instructor gave her a homeopathic remedy to help her remain calm (one which doesn't induce drowsiness, naturally). She's being tested in Mill Hill. She wanted to know if they had lots of roundabouts there. I've been thinking good driving thoughts all day.

I was too scared to learn to drive until I was 24. The whole idea of being in charge of a machine capable of killing people was just too much of a responsibility. I finally decided I needed to when I was going to America to live for 6 months (the thought of being trapped in a small town unable to drive was just too much to bear). So I embarked on an epic learning curve where I just didn't entertain the prospect of failing.

I started with a few lessons with the AA Driving School where I discovered: how to actually steer round a miniature roundabout (the crucial thing here is that the steering wheel goes round and round several times to help you to do this - one revolution will have you driving across the road, over the pavement and into a hedge - nearly happened but for the swift intervention of a driving instructor's hand); how to deal with an accident situation - not my fault, a moped did an illegal right hand turn and drove straight into the side back door of the car (first experience of those ominous letters from the police informing you that they have discovered no grounds to prosecute you in this instance - I mean really it wasn't my fault - wasn't that obvious from the beginning?); and how to talk for hours about a man's d i v o r c e and the loss of visiting rights to his kids (I personally felt that the best policy was one of listening but not delving too deeply into the whys and wherefores, if you know what I mean).

Then as my deadline loomed I decided I needed swift intervention because I was running out of time. So I did an intensive driving course. Four hours driving a day for two weeks, tested at the end wherever there happens to be a cancellation. It was TOUGH. Its a lot of driving and concentrating. There were days when I was waiting to be picked up after lunch that I was dreading getting back into the car. And generally by the end of the day my driving was abominable.

So on the morning of the test we had an hour long lesson where we basically had to drive up to Palmer's Green to the test centre. The driving instructor was very quiet this particular morning. I thought perhaps it was too late to even worry anymore.

The driving examiner was one of those beige and sensible middle-aged men who you imagine were middle-aged when they were 20. Sensible brown clarks shoes with rubber soles (wouldn't want to get struck by lightning or anything). As it turned out I could read the licence tags at the specified distance and luckily he was a model railway enthusiast - he built proper steam trains on the weekend. Having just finished a metals degree I could spaff on with him about metal working techniques and finishes. And even though I had to use common sense to answer the final question about what was important in maintaining the safety of the car (was that in the highway code - couldn't possibly tell you) I passed.

On the way home I kept saying I couldn't believe it and the driving instructor said I was driving very well - see how he didn't have to correct me on anything that morning, and I told him I thought that was just because he didn't want to blow my confidence.

News just in: she failed.

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