Doing battle with daily dragons

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Behind the Wheel

Procrastination is a terrible thing. I like to think that I don’t engage in it all that often, but I have a shameful secret. Something I’ve been trying to forget about for the last 6 years...taking my driving test.

I first came into possession of a driver’s license when I was 15; an age, some might say, that most teenagers are not capable of being responsible for a hamster, let alone a ton of steel that’ll do around about 120. The day previous to me receiving my learner’s permit, I rolled my parent’s brand new car down the driveway and crashed it into a fence so I was rather expecting to be locked in the basement rather than given an opportunity to get behind the wheel.

My father did most of the teaching, at my request. I love my mother, but she made me distinctly nervous. It’s a family trait: HER mother (the first woman with a driver’s license in the small town she lived in and the basis for just about every assumption that people make about women drivers) taught her how to drive and was responsible for many of her early accidents. (i.e. shouting at my mother not to run into a tree and startling her enough that she ran into a tree) My mom and I share nervousness as a trait, so the two of us in a car being controlled by me was a bad equation. My father is a calmer soul and took on the task instead.

At 16, I took my test. Those of you in the UK will be astonished to learn that I didn’t ONCE venture onto any public road during the examination; the Frederick, Maryland DMV constructed a special closed course on which nervous teenagers could have the fate of their social lives decided by an examiner, who, incidentally, was a Maryland State Trooper complete with uniform and gun. I passed. The gun helped.

When I moved to the UK in 1999 shortly before The Rock Star and I got married, I discovered, to my chagrin that US citizens arriving in the country are welcome to drive under the umbrella of their American licenses for a period of 1 year, but AFTER that, are required to secure a UK license.

Let me lay this out for you: I am allowed to drive for 1 year during which time I could be committing all kind of traffic related felonies, using children and senior citizens as speed bumps, etc, but after a YEAR of practice, during which time, my driving will have significantly IMPROVED, THEN I am no longer deemed capable of operating a car. To burn my biscuits further, I also discovered that CANADIANS are exempt from this bit of vehicular fuckwittery. JUST BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T CHAFE UNDER THE YOKE OF THEIR OPPRESSORS.

But back to our story in progress. The Rock Star has been teaching me to drive for the past 6 years. To be more accurate, The Rock Star has been trying to teach me how to pass the test for 6 years. Driving is not the problem. The difficulty seems to be a ludicrously easy-to-fail examination conducted by bitter sociopaths, but that’s just my experience. I am little comforted by the claims of all of the drivers around me that they’d never pass the test if asked to take it tomorrow. It is I who must face, once again, the cold reality of examination.

My first attempt was doomed to failure from the start. Not only did I forget the mandatory examiner’s mirror, but I also spectacularly failed to locate the hood release and the horn. In my own defence, the horn was in fact located on the end of the turn signal arm, which is not where I would normally look for it, but it made me look like a right prat from the get-go. I was so flustered, I ran into a curb which completely ended my chances of a “pass”.

My second attempt, however, still leaves me with the bitter taste of bile in my mouth. My examiner, a frumpy, unfriendly middle aged woman took it upon herself to fail me for signalling briefly to navigate around a line of parked cars, which I had always been taught to do.

“It no doubt confused motorists behind you,” she said nastily, “they probably thought you were turning right.”

“Um…but there was no road on the right to turn onto,” I replied, “Just a row of terraced cottages.”

“It was dangerous,” she reiterated.

In the burning black pit of my soul, I wished at that moment that she would be devoured alive by fire ants.

This was over a year ago, now. Since then, I’ve actually had to retake the theory test, which now includes a fun-filled “virtual reality” section. Mercifully, I DID pass that, but I have yet to book another test. My trusty Ford “Fiasco” is currently sucking down volts on a deep charge in my in-laws driveway after a spectacular failure to start yesterday evening.

Will our heroine ever get back on the road? Watch this space for the continuing adventures of DSA Girl…