Monday, October 10, 2005

Driving in my car

OKAY, I have a confession to make, I am officially the worst driver in the world. That is, I would be, if I could ever actually manage to pass my test.

You see 10 years ago as a confident and exuberant 18-year-old I sent off for my Provisional Licence with high hopes that I would soon be cruising the streets of Derry in my very own set of wheels. A school friend had a car and she was considered to be the coolest of the cool, so I was determined to follow suit.

I never quite bargained on the price of lessons however, and me, as an impoverished student, never got round to booking any until the age of 21 when, the search for work looming, I realised that I needed my licence to stand any chance of getting a job.

Dutifully I started to learn. And while the actual basics of driving are easy enough for me (apart from the dodgy change from third to second gear), I am officially too much of a coward to be safe on the roads. I swear my driving instructor spent most lessons with his head in his hands or trying to assure me it was actually safe to drive at more than 20 miles per hour.

After many (too many to admit without looking like a total eejit) lessons and a few heart stopping moments driving in fifth gear over the New Bridge, I attempted to pass my test. Two failed attempts and five years later, I’m still trying.

Now I’ll admit that I failed the first test in style. I don’t think there was a single box left unticked as I shuddered to a halting stop about half way into the parking space at the test centre. I swear I heard a huge sigh of relief as I got out of the car (from the unlucky soul who had the misfortune to take me out on my test and from half of the Derry driving population).

The second time I failed on my emergency stop, and in that moment it put an emergency stop to me learning how to drive. You see, I don’t fail tests. Never have, so to fail at something so basic as driving was a blow to my over inflated sense of self importance. I mean, 17 year old boy racers pass this test every day!

I have tried on and off again over the years to get back behind the wheel with varying degrees of success. I was doing quite well last year til bouts of morning sickness made the emergency stops unbearable and now, well now I’ve managed to get myself on the insurance of our own car.

However, one thing I have learned is that getting a suitably qualified driver willing to sit in the passenger seat is not as easy I thought it would be.

My mother, God love her, visibly pales when I ask her. She remembers all too well the many heart-stopping sessions she had sat beside me in the bumper cars in Portrush when I was wee. She compares the look that would come across my face as the cars started up to one of demonic possession, therefore getting into a proper car does not appeal all that much to her now.

My daddy, God love him, is willing to give it a go, but I fear his exasperated sighs as I crunch the gears or stall the car for the 500th time in a one hour session.

I have to wonder how driving comes so easy to some people. My other half loves to drive, he fears nothing (not even the multi-storey car park at Foyleside), whereas I shudder with nerves if there is even one other car on the road at the same time as me. And as for roundabouts….pass the valium before you even expect me to tackle one of those bad boys!

I will persevere however, because being able to drive gives you lots more freedom (or so I’m told). I still have my dream of owning my own set of wheels (himself having decided that “our” car is in fact “his” even though I’ve paid for half of it!). I like to think that one day I can jump behind the wheel and head out the road, when the notion takes me.

And, if truth be told, I want to beat the stigma of being 29 and licence-less. Everyone expects you to drive these days so admitting that you are “just going to ring a taxi” is a little embarrassing.

I’m sure with enough effort and the help someone with a strong heart and a death wish I can get over my fear of driving and soon become Queen of the Road.

In the meantime, if you happen to pass a wee black Micra with a terrified looking female driver and an even more terrified looking passenger then be sure to give me a wave.

1 comment:

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