Learning To Drive

Learning To Drive

Your first driving lesson…. What to expect? You’ve seen everyone else do it. How hard could it be? Of course, I’ve spent my fair share of time scrounging lifts from my parents and friends, and at some point, there will always be the dreaded question – “So, when are you going to learn to drive?”

Well, last year, upon coming to the realisation that I will probably never be able to afford my own personal chauffeur, I decided to learn.

The selection process for an instructor was easy, Andy had taught both of my brothers and lived to tell the tale without developing any kind of twitches or having some sort of mental breakdown. Excellent, I thought. We’ll take him. Possibly I should have conducted some sort of risk assessment to establish that he was mentally ready for the trials and tribulations of the coming months, but one sunny Monday morning, where he was waiting in his car – blissfully unaware of the events about to unfold.

So, for a while, Andy drove about. This is what I’m used to, I like this. Then for some reason, he hands me the keys and tells me I’m allowed to sit in the driver’s seat. This has to be a terrible accident, I have no idea what any of these buttons do.

So, Andy talks me through the controls and it all seems fairly impossible and beyond me. I begin to wonder if I have the right instructor – this guy is a pretty nice bloke and I’m not sure I want him to have a horrible car accident… Nevertheless, he makes me actually try to make the car move. This is possibly the most horrifying event in the entire process of learning to drive. You know, the bit where you have to drive, the terrifying moment where you do some stuff and the car start moving, and you’re in control of it. I’ll tell you something, 20mph feels like the light speed at the beginning.

I managed to pull up onto the pavement by accident on my first lesson, I got confused between the accelerator and the brake. I forgot what the steering wheel was for. But hey, I got through it and Andy said he would see me next week and wasn’t dead yet. Result!

I continued to learn to drive and after a while, I noticed a couple of issues that I wasn’t expecting. For example, gear changes are terrifying. I hated it and would hope that Andy wouldn’t notice that I was driving around in first gear the majority of the time. I started to realise that there is more to driving than turning the steering wheel and talking like they do in old Hollywood films. You even have to watch the road and everything. I noticed I started saying sorry a lot more than usual, particularly when Andy had to do an emergency stop one time because I was busy looking at an unusual looking dalmatian with not many spots on the other side of the road (I would recommend watching the road at all times, not dalmations. I’ve heard the test people don’t like it when you don’t.) Shoes are also a problem. If you are used to driving in a particular sort of shoe and you change, it’s like trying to drive with bricks on your feet.

Manoeuvres aren’t fun either. Reversing is confusing and three-point turns are tricky at first. There are also other cars on the road which complicate matters and pedestrians seem to be everywhere. You will feel that the clutch has some sort of vendetta against you and mostly refuses to cooperate, particularly when you try hill starts. However, after some time of practising it does get easier.

Islands aren’t the most fun to begin with either, you can’t hesitate but you also can’t crash into someone else’s car. That’s the rules, you see. It takes a great deal of concentration to know when to go for it. And also not to stall the car.

All in all, it’s not easy. But when you manage to get around an island without becoming hysterical, nail a three-point turn or even go above 30mph, it feels pretty good and it’s worth it.

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