Mr Justice asked his friend Master E the other day if he ever got “traffic sick”. My first thought was that it was an appropriate description of the feeling I used to get whenever I had a driving lesson. And then I realised he probably meant “travel sick” which was based more on that time a bacon sandwich made a surprise comeback after he’d been reading a Simpsons comic in a moving vehicle. Which wasn’t quite the same thing, although they both involved a high degree of nausea.
As a Late in Life Learner, I had more than just nausea to overcome. For one thing, there was the ever-so-slight humiliation of driving around the ‘hood, at the ripe old age of 36 years, with L plates on. Two words: Not. Cool. And there were also the tears which inevitably started flowing like some kind of Champagne Drinking Fountain for at least half an hour before each lesson (there’s that Incredibly Pathetic Crying Lady alter-ego of mine again, damn her). Plus the unnerving sensation of being perilously close to crapping my own dacks every time I even thought about doing the driving test.
But one bright day in July 2007, I turned up at the Local Driving Authority wearing my best brown underpants and passed that test with flying colours. In the end, my only real mistake during the test was leaving the windscreen wipers on too long because it had stopped raining and I was concentrating too hard on the road to notice. Apparently that counts as “failure to control the vehicle”, which I had previously thought was more about swerving into oncoming traffic. Silly me.
Still, I passed. And now, after 19 months of being On The Road, I thought I should share with you some of the things I think I really should have been taught and/or tested on before being Licensed To Drive…
I practiced many a perfect (and imperfect) reverse park while under instruction. My instructor was always like “Take your time. Line the car up. Blah blah blah.” But what she really should have taught me was how to do it in great haste before one of my children throws up.
This observation is based on Actual Events, of course. Mr Justice, prone to the old “traffic sickness”, was trying to transform Megatron in the back seat when he “felt the sick coming” and suddenly announced: “I’m going to throw up!”. I pulled into the first side-street I could, saw a parking spot, reversed into it, but in my haste, lightly bumped the car behind us. Which unfortunately had the owner actually sitting in it. This man helpfully alerted me to the situation by blasting his horn and getting out to confront me.
I, in the meantime, had jumped out and was running around to the pavement side, saying “Oh sorry, sorry, sorry, my son is about to throw up!”. The man followed me and watched as I slid open the Tarago back door to reveal Mr Justice just as he executed this perfect arc of vomit into the gutter. At which point the man Backed Right Off and, saying it was only the smallest dint in his number plate that I’d caused (and even “smallest” was an exaggeration), left me to it.
Now if only I could train Mr Justice to vomit on demand. For one thing, it certainly might sort out that little Late Pass situation of mine…
Before changing lanes, my instructor taught me to check my mirrors and then do a quick headcheck of my blindspot before proceeding. Although, as I’ve subsequently discovered, it is often a case of checking the mirrors and then doing a quick headcheck of the helium balloons the kids are holding before crossing my fingers and hoping for the best…
During your lesson and test, it’s all “Take the first right after the lights when it is safe to do so” spoken in the calm modulated tones of HAL the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In Real Life, directions are more like “Now you’ll have to turn left soon, like NOW!… THAT ONE! BACK THERE!….SHIT!”.
LEARNING THE RULES OF THE ROAD
One thing I’ve realised since I’ve been driving by myself is how willing people are to teach you all about road safety. Yep, they all see those P plates and they want to teach you “real good”.
For example, one day I had to do a last minute lane change and, admittedly, didn’t do it all that well. Fortunately, the lovely gentleman who I had moved in front of showed me how to do these things correctly by first hanging back, then driving up really fast right up behind me, quickly overtaking me, and cutting in front of me in quite the sharpish manner.
“Oh!” I thought to myself. “So that’s how it’s done. Why, thank you, kind stranger.”
Although when I went to thank him out loud, the words “kind stranger” accidentally got substituted with the words “dick wank”.
Yes, indeedy, I’ve learnt a helluva lot since I first officially took charge of that wheel.
But here’s the most surprising thing of all: my husband always said that when I was finally able to be the designated driver, he would buy one of those hats which hold two cans of beer on top and have with straws that come down to your mouth. And he said he would wear it 24/7, even when I dropped him off at work. I don’t know why I’m disappointed he hasn’t yet delivered on this promise, but I am. Bitterly disappointed, in fact. I mean, who’d have thunk it?