Driving’s for losers

Yesterday I proved that my husband is patient enough to put his life and, more impressively, car into my shaky hands simply to encourage me. He yelled, “Brakes!” a couple of times but there were no beads of sweat, whispered prayers or attempts at thinly veiled contempt.

It could be that he’s bone tired of driving the whole way to Cornwall while I either consume all breathing space with “important issues” or snore my head into dropping forward, back, left, right and back again. He’s probably also a bit fed up of having to quickly pull to the side while I revisit whatever I’ve had for breakfast. Latest accomplishments include puking a full English outside the Wordsworth museum in the Lake District – just to inject a bit of culture into our visit. And bless his pants, that time he was making the ten-hour journey up to Aberdeen and back as the sole driver. To see my family. What a hero.

But the hero has decided it’s time I learned to drive, especially since the creature will probably demand need driving around. He needs to feel safe about me taking his offspring out and about. For my part, I really don’t want her to grow up subconsciously thinking at worst that women don’t make good drivers or at least inherit my complex about the whole issue.

It all started when I was 18. The mechanics of maneuvering a manual car were fine but I soon realised that I had no perception of where the chips the car was. I could move it around just fine but understanding where other cars were in relation to my car or deciphering just what I was seeing in the mirrors was a total mystery. Embarrassed, I never told the instructor. I just let him tell me what to do.

Amazingly, this didn’t affect my test. I failed it a couple of times but for unrelated majors. The third time I decided to go automatic and still made a huge mistake (rolling back on a hill) but the examiner decided to pass me anyway, out of pity, I think. He said, “You’ll learn as you go along.” Oh, Trinidad, how I love thee.

Well, I didn’t learn as I went along. Soon after getting my sympathy license, I picked up a friend with my dad in the car. We were driving to the mall and all was fine until my dad suggested I switch lanes. In one clear moment, I realised that I didn’t know how to do that, couldn’t tell where the cars behind me were and shouldn’t attempt this one on the fly but bravado got the better of me and I plunged for it.

I looked over my shoulder and simultaneously pushed the wheel to the left, resulting in the car scraping over the partition that separates the cars going in one direction on the motorway from the cars going the other. I’m so driving savvy that I don’t even know what this is called. Anyway, there we dangled, our car precariously hanging over both sides of the motorway like a toy dropped by the Honey I Blew Up the Kid baby.

Massive props to my dad for seeing the humour in it pretty much right away and for telling my friend and me to get out of the car and go around the corner where we wouldn’t hear things that could jeopardise my confidence. I think he even offered for me to get straight back into the driver’s seat after a van of guys helped him lift it onto the road. But I refused.

I’ve not driven since, partly because of what happened but more because there was never any impetus to try in Brighton. As a student, I hardly knew anyone who had a car. The city’s so small you can walk everywhere and so green that many people make the lifestyle choice not to drive.

But, it’s like riding a bike, everyone said, you never forget. Not that that helps. I can’t ride a bike either.

And guess what, they’re all a bunch of sweaty liars. I got into a car yesterday and remembered nothing. What the hell are gears for? Why’s this clutch business so flippin’ complicated? Which way do I turn if I want the car to go that way when I’m reversing? How much do I turn? Too much? Grrr. Breaks. Jump. Stall.

And the big problem remains. I still have limited spatial awareness. I still can’t make sense of what I’m seeing in the mirrors so that it translates into me not aiming to crash into something.

I start lessons to get my UK driver’s license on Wednesday. And now it’s about more than not wanting the creature to think that women are rubbish. At this point I’ll settle for her not thinking that I’m rubbish.

Image: J.B. Hill