Yippee! I finally learned to drive!
You might ask, most women drive these days so what’s the big deal?
Well, when you often hear comments like, ‘gosh, just another killing machine on the road,’ or ‘is being indecisive bang on the middle of a road an innate womanly quality?’ or ‘oh no, back off, it’s a woman driving’ and many more scary things, it’s difficult to tell people I’m joining the bandwagon too!
I had a good trainer who was patient and funny. Also, I’m a fast learner so he found in me someone who like a sponge absorbed everything he said. His uncanny ability to put me at ease meant that I looked forward to my driving lessons. Even after completing the allotted lessons I drove long distances, with him encouraging me all the way. Great fun!
I was happy and went for my driving test alone driving my own car! The driving test was easy and I proudly drove back a few of my fellow learners to the driving school from the test location. If you thought I was brimming with confidence, you bet I was. It didn’t matter that I had overlooked the fact that I drove a distance of about 2 kms without lowering the handbrake. I realised my mistake only while parking the car in the basement. That too, when another driver pointed it out!
Husband threw a fit when I told him. But of course, he would, what was I thinking telling him that? Perhaps that he’d see the funny side of the story. He didn’t!
Few days later husband gathered enough courage to ask me to drive him around for some errands. I freaked out. He’s a good and careful driver and loves his car! Sometime I feel he can drive with his eyes closed. Well, when you’ve been driving for more than 20 years, understandably, the car almost becomes an extension of yourself. Still I tried to calm my nerves and told myself ‘be grateful, at least you will be driving your own car and not his.’ That was some consolation till he sat beside me and began ‘side seat driving!’
“Lower the handbrake, use the clutch and accelerator to start the car, why are you driving in 2nd gear only, you’re too close to that car, you’re going too fast, don’t ever stop in the middle of the road, change the gear now”…by this time my body forgot that it has bradycardia! My heart was pounding against my chest; my feet were almost numb and everything that could go wrong, did! When he was done with his final errand, I politely asked him to drive us back home.
Now he’s a good man and equally great at mentoring. But this time was different, perhaps because his life was at stake. I was driving him and he was freaking out. Side seat driving was the only way he knew how to feel in complete control!
And so every time I had to take the car out I had to motivate myself – all the likely scenarios of things going wrong would play in my head. Some days I could gather enough courage while on other days I’d just give up. It didn’t help matters that I had difficulty driving uphill (read a slight incline). Every time I braked while on the incline, the car would stop, roll back and restarting the car would be a nightmare.
On one such occasion, I was struggling to restart the car. Every time I tried, it would just roll back and stop. This was at a two way junction. There was a car waiting to turn into the road I was on while another was stuck behind me. Good news, both were patient drivers who realised that I was struggling. They didn’t honk but waited for me to restart, control the rolling car and drive away. Bad news there was some bikers.
Now here’s this thing about bikers – they believe zipping around is their birth right and no red light or traffic dare stall their free flying spirits. But in reality, they’re actually creepy crawlies who weave their way in and out of traffic. Sometimes I think they would feel hugely obliged if you allowed them to simply cross over through the back door of your car instead of waiting to go around it!
So continuing with the bad news – there was this biker and his friend who didn’t have the patience to wait and of course on one instance my rolling car was almost on them! Thinking I ought to be nice, I rolled down the window to apologise. But before I could say anything the biker sarcastically said, ‘learn to drive first. Why take the car out when you don’t even know how to drive!’
I couldn’t see his face as it was masked within the huge helmet he wore but I was glad I didn’t or else perhaps his face would haunt me for a long while. Could I have said something, yes! But I refrained as I felt I needed to hold on to my dignity by taking control and drive away. I did.
I came home and did what I should have done long before – I logged on to YouTube and saw as many videos I could about how to drive, stop and start the car again when going up a hill. I’m now enlightened.
At this time I thought I should find a woman role model who would truly understand my pain points. Unfortunately the one I found was a maniac! Ok, giving the devil her due, she’s a maniac only when behind the wheels. She’s a very close friend but one who spews expletives galore at the slightest of provocations especially when she gets stuck behind a particularly slow driver! It’s not really road rage as its self-contained, i.e., the windows are rolled up and she doesn’t get into physical altercations ever but for the person sitting beside her, it’s a challenge.
She’s promised to let me take her on a long drive but has refused to sit quietly if I drove slowly. Knowing her, there’s no way she’s going to so I’ll just have to deal with it when it does happen! In fact, I know I’ll be alright as now I regularly drive my preschooler to school and back. Wohooo!
But I must say that every one of these experiences have actually helped me unlearn and relearn how to drive a car! My trainer taught me to take care of myself and my car first before reacting to anyone on the road, I try to emulate certain subtleties of how my husband drives, the biker ensured I learned how to drive on an incline and my good friend’s antics on the road taught me how to simply stay calm.
I’ve now realised learning how to drive is easy. The difficult bit is, trusting oneself enough to be out there, facing the drum roll!