Monday, February 20, 2006

On the Road Again

I AM a woman of many talents, but sadly, I have to admit driving is not one of them.

They say that God loves a trier and if that is true then I'm glad to announce that even though my driving is deeply questionable, I'm up there with the best of the them in the Big Man's most loved people ever list.
I have held a provisional driving licence for a shocking 10 years now and while I've managed to pass two theory tests and fail an equal number of practicals, I'm no further forward in my quest to head out on my own and start cruising the fine streets of Derry in my own wheels.
It all started when I was 19. It was then I decided I would love to learn to drive and duly sent off my application for a licence. I even bought some sunglasses (to cope with the glare on sunny days) and some tapes (yes, tapes- it was in the era before CDs) to listen to as I cruised the highways and byways of the North.
Sadly I didn't get much further than that. I listened to the tapes and wore the glasses, but didn't so much as get behind the wheel of a car until two years later when, at 21, I realised that a licence would greatly improve my chances of securing gainful employment.
My driving instructor, God love him, tried so very hard to make me a safe and competent driver- and I was, honestly- as long as there were no other vehicles within a two mile radius.
When he caved in and allowed me to sit a test (one month after I secured this job on the understanding I was a learner!) I surprised no one by failing horrendously. (People often ask what I failed on, the easier question would be to ask what didn't I fail on?) I remember the day well, returning to the office having made the mistake of telling everyone I had been out of my test.
My colleagues had the good grace not to laugh. They sympathised, shared their own driving horror stories and advised me to book for a cancellation straight away. I did, subsequently failed again (on a dodgy emergency stop that time), and they were equally supportive- warning me not to wait five years before getting behind the wheel of a car again- and I kept my promise. Instead of waiting five years, I waited six and a half.

Glaring truth
In fairness I've had a few sessions behind the wheel between now and then. Most of them have confirmed to me the two most glaring truths of my young existence. The first is that A) I can't drive for toffee and B) Although I'm terrified of other traffic, driving would make my life 100 times easier.
So it was with heavy heart, and a certain sense of trepidation, I set myself the goal of finally getting through my test before the age of 30 (which is looming ever closer).
I booked some lessons with the man who drove me to the chapel on my wedding day- figuring if he could deal with the gibbering wreck I was that day he would be well matched to deal with me and my terminal fear of roundabouts.
So we started again, just before Christmas, and I shocked myself with my ability to remain relatively cool and collected behind the wheel. Want a three point turn? (sorry- turn your car in the opposite direction using forward and reverse gears), I'm your gal. I can reverse a car around a corner in a second and am pretty comfortable with the whole reverse parking malarkey.
I was starting to feel good. I bought new sun-glasses. I downloaded some music for the CD player. I started to warn himself that I would soon be taking over all driving responsibilities and had started to gaze lovingly at pictures of shiny new Micras.
Mr. Driving Instructor conceded I was doing well. He told me to book my theory test. I did, and I passed. (Full marks, I thank you) and I started to visualise tearing up the 'L' Plates and tossing them in the air with a celebratory cheer.
And then, you see, it all started to go horribly wrong, culminating in me saying a few bad words and fighting back tears on my last lesson. Mr. Driving Instructor seems to think that it is because I'm now thinking too much about the test and starting to panic.
My lovely friend Vicki has assured me that when her test was around the corner her driving went to pot too and she was convinced she would fail, but I'm not really believing either of them. I just think I'm destined to be one of life's passengers.
The temptation is now exceptionally great to pack it all in and resign myself to a life of buses, taxis and lifts from the very lovely Erin Hutcheon (who demands only £2 for a trip to the Waterside, more than half the going rate of most taxi firms).
But then I've promised myself I won't be a quitter this time. By hook or by crook, should I fail 100 tests and become a talking point in the local test centre, and should Mr. Driving Instructor start to factor me into his pension plans- I will drive some day.
I will get in my car, switch on the engine, listen to that Bon Jovi tape (I know, I know, I was young and impressionable) and cruise into the 'Journal' office (well the car park, not the actual office building) like the cat who got the cream- 'R' plates raised aloft in a uniquely choreographed victory dance.

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