Thursday, October 14, 2004

Driving (part 1)

Sorry about not posting anything yesterday. I had a severe lack of inspiration and couldn't force myself to write anything. Anyway, here's the story of me relearning to drive over the summer.

I have mentioned my driving history a few times in the last year and a bit. How I learnt to drive when I was 17, passed my test after just ten lessons and a few extra hours with my parents and then drove every now and again over the next couple of years before stopping completely. I had probably been behind the wheel for less than thirty hours in total and had never really had the chance to make driving second nature for me, the way that riding a bike is.

Fast forward to this summer and, while driving didn't terrify me, I was more than a little apprehensive about starting up again. I booked three two-hour lessons with the AA, thinking that I'd probably need to book more after they had finished, and tried to get my nerves under control. I succeeded in that, largely by not thinking about the upcoming lesson too much, but it came around all too soon.

Initially, the instructor drove out to the industrial area of Hemel, which is largely deserted on a Sunday afternoon, and started me off right at the beginning; going round the block, left-hand turns only. I soon discovered that certain skills had indeed become second nature to me ten years ago. I wasn't having to look at the stick when changing gear, I was judging the size of the car well and signaling was pretty automatic but there were plenty of problems, too, particularly with my clutch control and steering. You know, the unimportant stuff. The lesson passed pretty quickly and, having graduated to some of the quieter residential areas of the town and practised some maneuvers, I was soon driving homewards again.

I got in, fixed myself a stiff drink and lay on the floor until the shaking died off.

At that point, L was worried that I might not be able to carry on with it and, to be honest, if I was going to have that sort of reaction every time then she was probably right. But the second lesson a week later went rather better and, more importantly, I didn't come out of it feeling like I'd had a dice with death. The third, and final, lesson was better yet and by the end of it I was feeling pretty good about it all. I decided that I didn't need any more lessons, that my time would be better spent driving around in my own car rather than the instructor's ( and paying £24 an hour to do so certainly helped in that decision). I hadn't stalled the car since the second lesson and thought I'd be just fine on my own.

And tomorrow I'll tell you whether I was or not.

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