Friday, October 15, 2004

Driving (part 2)

We went out for a quick drive a couple of days after my last lesson and that went all right. It was mainly to get me used to the different controls and handling and I didn't do too badly, just stalled a couple of times. A few days after that we went out again for a slightly longer drive and that was okay, too. I was still quite nervy about doing it and if I got flustered I would suddenly lose all my coordination and start doing things in the wrong order and the car would stall or something. Of course, that would make me more flustered and everything would go. A vicious circle, that.

I didn't then drive again until we were going on holiday. I had meant to but hadn't got around to it. So it was that we were stopped at Watford Gap services and I was sliding behind the wheel again to take us most of the way to Manchester. I find that motorway driving is much easier than driving around town in that there's less to have to think about. To an experienced driver that can make it dangerous because it tends to make you switch off but at the moment that's not a problem for me. Up the M6 we went and along the M6 Toll (what a lovely road that is, even for £3) and I was feeling pretty good about it all.

Back on the M6 again, I decided to go past the services we had planned to stop at since I was feeling all right. We'd see when we got to the next services. Of course, before we got there we hit some heavy traffic and my heart sank. I could almost feel the panic setting in. But actually, it was okay. I stalled a couple of times but when you're in a motorway traffic jam people tend not to mind too much. It's not as if you're at a busy junction and you're holding a whole load of people up. On a motorway you just restart the car and catch up with the person in front - nobody loses anything. So I stayed pretty calm and got through it well. Of course, as soon as the next services appeared, we were off and I was back in the passenger seat and relaxing.

And that was pretty much that. I would still get flustered every now and then but my control of the car was getting better and I was growing more confident. Then, two weeks ago I had a complete mare getting out of a multi-storey car park in Watford. It was a Saturday and it was heaving and I allowed myself to be pressured by other drivers. Distracted, I made mistakes, just small ones but enough to get that familiar feeling rising in my throat. Panic set in and I made more mistakes. It was the worst attack I'd had since I started driving again and I think it was a minor miracle that I got out of the town without doing something really stupid. I was just about to pull off and let L take over when we hit the back of another traffic jam. With no option but to sit there, I calmed down and got on with it. I drove all the home without any problems at all and since then I have been absolutely fine.

Relearning to drive has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. One with vertical drops and gut-wrenching bends. I think I'm now over the worst of it. I'm not yet a good driver, nor a completely confident one but at least the idea of doing it no longer sets butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

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