“Please go wait in the car with the 700 license plate”. The words ring in my ears as I stand in front of one of the driving school’s bright blue Renault Clios, wondering what my instructor (let’s call her Ma’am) means by “in”. In the driver’s seat? The passenger’s seat? The trunk, that safe refuge where no one would find me? Surely she can’t mean the driver’s seat, we’re in the middle of town and I have no idea how to drive. Uncertainly, I hover around the passenger’s door until Ma’am rounds the corner of the building, grins sadistically at me and tells me that I’m on the wrong side of the car. Alright, I reason with myself, she may just want to show you how things work, she’ll be the one driving you to a parking lot where you can take you first few tentative tries in first gear.
“Take a right out of the driving school’s parking lot and then go around the traffic circle to the third exit.” WOAH WOAH WOAH LADY I don’t even know how to shift, and you’re throwing me into oncoming traffic? Do you have any idea how at risk your life is right now? Heart thumping, I breathe in sharply, say a prayer to the Great Cookie in the Sky and rev the car into first gear. Once I make it to first gear on the crowded street without stalling, I offer Ma’am a proud smile, but she’s having none of it. “Second gear.” My face twists with anguish as I try to remember the steps I learned on the driving simulator, which was more like Grand Theft Auto than anything you’d ever experience in real life. Now fully engaged in the traffic circle, the car groans, sputters and jolts when I shift, prompting a frown from Ma’am. Some douche in a Mercedes flips me off, whom Ma’am replies to with a slew of choice curse words yelled out the window.
The rest of the lesson continues in this fashion — me trying something, Ma’am lecturing me on the awful thing I just did and patting her car to make sure that it doesn’t have PTSD from the maneuver I just attempted. Frankly, after nearly taking out a horse-drawn carriage, a bike and a group of children, I’m the one who needs checking for PTSD. As I pull back into the driving school after two hours of trial and error, Ma’am finally relaxes. Her hands have left a damp mark on the seat that she was clutching, but she assures me that I did fine for my first day. She’s not particularly convincing, but I nod and offer her a quarter-smile, hoping my face doesn’t betray the immense fear I’m feeling.
Back in the safety of the passenger seat of my own car, I recount how I’m a natural at driving to my dad, who nods proudly and tells me he knew I would be. I don’t have the strength to tell him about the moment I was going 90 km/h and veered into the other lane, Ma’am only saving my life by grabbing the steering wheel and yanking the car away from the oncoming truck. I’ll disclose that particular incident later, preferably when he’s had a few drinks.
Ladies, gentlemen and aliens, I’m learning to drive. If I don’t ever post to TMCT again, you can all guess how I bit the dust.
Live long and prosper \V/
The Mostly Confused Teenager.