Thursday, March 23, 2006

Getting my 'R's into gear

THERE ARE a few achievements in my life I am particularly proud of. The first is getting my Masters Degree which was achieved under sufferance and put me off studying for life.

The second is surviving child birth and the first three months of my son's life without becoming a hardened street drinker and third, and most recent, is finally- after four attempts- passing my driving test.
Regular readers of this column will be aware I have a love/ hate relationship with driving. Seven years ago, as a fresh faced cub reporter I first got behind the wheel of a car and drove for a year before failing two tests and giving up.
Earlier this month I faced my demons and sat my third test on a cold and wintry Tuesday morning.
I had been beating the Rescue Remedy and Stressless tablets into me for a week beforehand and had also, I kid ye not, persuaded a hypnotherapist to talk me through relaxation techniques over the phone. In my pocket I had a prescription for Diazepam in case the nerves became unbearable and the Big Man upstairs had taken to avoiding my calls as he was sickened hearing the sound of my novenas.
I woke that morning and it was persisting down with rain (that's the polite way to put it). Venturing out with my long suffering driving instructor (Michael Harkin, if you want to know- he's in the book!) we also encountered reams of road works.
He assured me they would work in my favour and we drove to the Test Centre and I took my seat in the waiting room (aka the Green Mile) and waited to be called- swigging from the Rescue Remedy all the time. (That stuff is stinking by the way).
As it happened I kept my cool. I drove across the Foyle Bridge like a true professional, did my three point turn in record time and my emergency stop was one they should really have filmed to show people how it is done.
And then, it went wrong. I realised I had done it all right. I realised all I had to do was get back to the test centre and that elusive slip of paper would be mine. I relaxed, too much, and crashed ("with a fair whack"-according to the examiner) into the pavement at Myra's shop. (I still give said pavement dirty looks now when we pass).
I knew then I had failed. I think I swore. I know I had to fight back tears and then, of course, I had to continue the drive back to the test centre knowing that I had messed up and it would take at least another one attempt at this test (and another £100 of my hard earned moulah- money I had set aside for my sojourn to Glasgee) before I could get my coveted 'R's on display (no giggles at the back please).
The most disappointing thing about failing a driving test is the notion that you have to do it again. I'm sure somewhere we could make an argument for the abolition of said test using the same argument that has been used against the retention of the 11 Plus. Branding anyone a failure is not conducive to good mental health- even if they have hit a kerbstone a "fair whack" and risked killing a stray pensioner.
Luckily I was able to secure a cancellation, thanks to the persuasive powers of my driving instructor (who also does wedding cars, if you are interested). While I welcomed the chance to get through the test again I dreaded the green mile, the not knowing if I would be tested in the cityside or Waterside, the worry over whether it would be a parallel park or a reversing around a corner that would catch me out.
As it turned out, Lady Luck had another cunning plan up her sleeve which involved some weird gastric flu type bug, a sick child and sleep deprivation. You see, when you are trying not to throw up, or indeed to stop your child from throwing up, you don't have time to work yourself into an absolute frenzy.
Not one Stressless tablet passed my lips (I have an unopened box if you want them). Only two doses of Rescue Remedy were consumed and the Diazepam prescription can now go in the bin.
You see I had come to peace with the fact that I had been so sick there was no way I was passing this test. And when the examiner took me on an unfamiliar route, I was doubly convinced I was on the highway to hell. I was so busy mentally working out how to pay for test number five, I was so convinced that I would fail, that I no longer feared failing- and when you have no fear you don't tend to make stupid mistakes like hitting kerbs a "fair whack".
Weirdly the nerves only started to jangle on my way back to the test centre when it dawned on me I hadn't messed up- yet. The elusive slip of paper was but a few moments away, I prayed that I could hold it together long enough to get into that parking bay in a straight line.
When the examiner told me he was "pleased to say" I had passed I promptly had a little happy cry and had to restrain myself from hugging him. (He looked vaguely terrified at this stage to be honest)
Within a couple of hours I had arranged my insurance, bought some 'R' Plates and gone for a drive down alone in the sunshine singing along to 'Hollaback Girl' in my uniquely squeaky voice.
It may have taken seven years. It may have cost me hundreds of pounds in lessons and Rescue Remedy but now, as the self-proclaimed Queen of the Road I really can say this shit is bananas.

And finally
It is Mother's Day on Sunday, so can I offer a special mention to my lovely Mammy who kindly agreed to get in the car with me just after my test despite her post traumatic stress at accompanying me on the bumper cars when I was a wain.
Much love to you from me. x

1 comment:

Lainey said...

Well done that woman! Yay!

I remember the feeling of driving on my own for the first time - nothing beats it!

Congrats! x

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