For many of you lucky people, I am sure, the memory of stressed parents, near fatal stalls in the middle of junctions and feelings of utter despair and a broken driving instructor at the end of a particularly distressing lesson, have all faded into some glorious, golden dream which you remember with fondness when you talk about how much you love driving, and how easy it was to pass 1st (or 2nd if you were really stupid) time.
Well for me, these memories are neither fond, nor in the past. At the tender age of 19 I have still failed to pass my driving test. In the days over a year ago when I was still confident and full of the reckless enthusiasm of a new learner driver, I unwittingly made a bet with my cousin that I would pass my test before him. I was sure to win this one; he knew nothing of my natural abilities behind the wheel, the careless ease with which I was able to carry out Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre every time it was called for. How could he know what he was up against?
We arrived at my first test in April. I was nervous and waved goodbye to my driving instructor in the waiting room as though he were my dearest friend. The fact that I nearly pulled out in front of a lorry and then narrowly missed running over two pedestrians on a zebra crossing yesterday in our last lesson was of no consequence now. I was going to pass.
The test didn’t start well when I am startled at my examiner asking me to read a car’s number plate. I asked him why, could he not see it himself? He said no, he needed to check that I could see it. You would have thought that this was something worth investigating before I even started lessons. Obviously not.
I further encountered problems when I walked out into the road to get into the car, only to realise that I hadn’t unlocked it. After frantically yanking the door handle several times, I scooted smoothly back round onto the pavement, giving the examiner an embarrassed smile before locating the unlock button and successfully entering the vehicle without hitch. From that point onwards I felt that we made rather good friends. We cruised through tricky junctions and roundabouts without trouble, I dazzled him with my flawless Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre procedure, he asked me about my holiday plans and I returned the question with equal enthusiasm. This happy situation was not to last, I fear. Our friendship vanished as quickly as it had begun when I inadvertently tried to run over a cyclist at the final roundabout.
Subdued, but not defeated, we made our way home. My brother was thrilled I hadn’t passed. So was my cousin. I tried again in June. This time I was too keen and took a roundabout too early in the first minute of my test. Failed again. The third time in December I was frustrated and changed the test centre to my home town, where I was certain that driving would come naturally to me. This time I got two majors. Roundabouts are a waste of space, I decided. Who sticks to their BLOODY LANE anyway? Worse still my cousin rang up. He had passed his test first time in the same time it had taken me to fail three times. I’d had enough.
But for me the agony is not over. It really hurts to admit that driving is still a fundamental art which I have failed to master. It’s something you have to really get the feel of, a key element which, my instructor has assured me many a time, I have failed to grasp. Much as I am utterly flummoxed by the car, I do admire the DVLA for not having allowing morons such as myself onto the road until they are sure they can tell one end of a car from another. And unlock the vehicle before trying to get into it. Wherever and whenever it is that I summon up the courage to take my driving test for the fourth time, however, please let them take pity on me. I may be blonde but I am able to safely negotiate roundabouts now. Plus I can read number plates from a distance of 20 metres away faultlessly.
Published in Exeposé, Issue 618, page 21. January 2014.