I have been learning how to drive for the last 12 years. I have failed 4 practical driving tests. I have had 9 different driving instructors. I have taken and passed with 100% a theory test which expired after 2 years about 8 years ago.
Now living in a country where public transport isn’t so bad and bad drivers are increasingly prevalent doesn’t give me too much of an incentive to learn how to drive. I really wanted to in the past hence the 4 tests. My lovely friends do drive me places and give me lifts and I really do appreciate that but I really would love to get behind that driver’s seat and offer to take them places instead. In my mind, it has been building up to quite a big thing.
I had an accident not long before my mum died. My boyfriend of the time was taking me out in his Nissan Sunny for some practice one Sunday and he thought that I was took close to the other cars so grabbed the steering wheel and we ended up in an elderly couple’s garden impact with their brick outhouse only stopped by a wheelie bin. I was pretty shaken by this and had my first panic attack the day after. I was wracked by guilt because not only had the car (I almost said I there) had totalled their garden fence and greenhouse, I had run over their cat’s leg who subsequently had a heart attack and died because of the trauma. Now rather than owning up and saying he’d grabbed the steering wheel and caused me to panic, he let me think that it was all my fault. (That would probably explain why I’m married to pao now, not him.) Maybe it is a Catholic guilt thing but I felt extremely guilty. I was kind of ashamed too, I didn’t want to meet up with my driving instructor after that (That was No. 2, No.1 quit after the first lesson because he was diagnosed as diabetic).
At the time, I didn’t actually like Instructor No. 2. He shouted at me. He basically treated me like an idiot because I just did not get reversing. My brain just doesn’t work that way – ok, I’m a very slow learner. I admit it but then I’m very good at other things.
So I used the excuse of my mum dying to get out of that situation altogether. A year or so later, I was driving round Wandsworth with Instructor No. 3 and then back in Canterbury during my final year at University with Instructor No. 4. We did the same two hour circuit through the villages including Womenswold every week for many weeks.
I met and fell for a guy who lived in Essex so naturally Instructor No. 5 came along and so did Test No. 1. I took Test No. 1 in a town called Chelmsford which had a big and very scary looking roundabout but I was confident, we’d practiced it many times. What I wasn’t prepared for was being too nervous and pulling out in front of a white van at the beginning of the test. I then proceeded to go to pieces after that.
Me and Essex guy then split up and I then took up with Instructor No. 6. This relationship lasted two lessons because he broke his leg and his brother died and he gave up driving instruction. So onto Instructor No. 7, Carlos. I remember his name because he was the one I had for the longest time and after 3 more failed tests, I decided not to do it any more. He was a great instructor and according to him I had all the manoeuvres down perfectly. Heh but not on test day. Test No 2, I failed for speeding but the rest was ok. Test No 3 I took in Herne Bay which I thought might improve matters but this served to make me more nervous because I was unfamiliar with the roads. Test No 4: well, I just went to pieces.
After a long break from driving and driving our lovely old Mirielle (I’ll have to edit this with photos) under pao’s supervision, we bought Marie-Claire. Shiny new Marie-Claire, in fact. The shininess and newness of this car frightened me so I have only ever driven it twice maybe three times since we’ve had it which is almost two years.
So onto Instructor No. 8. I thought it might be good to learn in a similar car to Marie-Claire. However, after 5 or 6 lessons with the man we now scornfully dub ‘King of the Road’, I decided that I had had enough of him and his references to the ‘kerbie werbies’ and going ‘gently gently’ on the clutch when he’d parked up at the end of my road out of sight one day and charged me for half a lesson missed because I didn’t come out of the house in time. He also referred to the road as his ‘playground’. Enough was enough. Besides I had no idea what Instructor No. 8’s name was probably because I was seething because he spent the whole lesson talking about how great he was.
Now I have Instructor No. 9. His name is David. I have skipped seeing him for a long period now because I knew I’d have to pass the theory thing all over again. The theory test has also become harder because there is a hazard perception test. If you fail this, you have failed the whole theory test. Without the theory test, you aren’t allowed to take the practical test.
Motivation to take the theory test has been difficult to muster. I think I’m still scarred by what happened in the past. Also, I’m a slight perfectionist so I get very stressed by any sorts of tests or interviews. I’ve done a couple of mock tests with David and even then, I’ve managed to get several serious faults because he said the word test on that lesson. I had slightly wanted to do it in time for pao’s op but that opportunity has passed. I have found a couple of people who are also taking the theory test so we are going to get together to study together.
Fingers crossed. I’m already feeling my stomach knot up and my shoulders getting tense. I’m going to phone the driving school for another 12 lessons tomorrow. Wish me luck and send some valium. I’ll be needing it.