Fear of 4 Wheels – Part 6

fozzydrivingIt’s been nine hours since we started this journey.  Nine hours behind the wheel.  Nine hours of traffic jams and stalls.  Nine hours of not knowing where the biting point is.  Nine hours of sweaty armpits and nervous laughs at junctions.  Nine hours of not quite stopping, or stopping too early, or failing to start, or going when the exit isn’t clear.  Nine hours of trying to listen and learn at the same time as controlling a deadly weapon.  Nine hours of getting home with legs like jelly, and feeling so hungry that I could eat the next person who knocks at the door.

After the first lesson, my instructor estimated it would take 25 hours to learn to drive.  (That’s ~£550-£625 worth of lessons if you’re tracking these things).  That means I have roughly 16 hours of this left if I’m going to hit that original guess.  Sixteen hours does not feel like enough time to improve to the point where I won’t be terrified to get into a car with an examiner.  Which means I am going to have to ask Greté to sit with me in our car while I do some more driving.  I can’t see any other way of keeping the cost under £1000 and keeping the time down to something approaching sensible.

If you know my wife, then I urge you – give her solace and comfort over the coming weeks, she’s absolutely going to need it.

My name is Tony, I’m 42, and I’m learning to drive.

I have drunk Coca Cola Zero, consumed food, and watched an episode of CSI, and I’m just about recovered from my two hour driving lesson.  Here then, is this week’s blog post.

I commented to friends at work that at the moment I seem to spend Monday and Tuesday worrying about the upcoming lesson, Wednesday in a state of zombie like stupor, and then Thursday and Friday recovering.  There’s just time for a weekend before the whole process starts again.  Of course, I’m employing a teeny bit of hyperbole (who knew)!  For the most part, I’m okay, but if I stop to think during the week, then I’m either thinking about the lesson that’s coming up or the one that just passed.  I try and make these moments constructive, thinking about POM (prepare, observe, manoeuvre), or MSM (mirror, signal, manoeuvre), or the sequence when coming up to a junction (mirrors, indicate, road position, speed, gears, observation, stall).

I don’t know if it helps.  Last week’s lesson was so good that I was expecting trouble today, and if you go looking for trouble you’re surely going to find it.  The first few manoeuvres were okay, but I got to a painful roundabout not far from here with rush hour traffic and just blew it.  Stalled twice, didn’t go in an obvious gap, and then tried to go a third time and stalled it again.  Eventually I played second fiddle and my instructor used her pedals to get us moving and around the roundabout.  Confidence shot to ribbons, we proceeded on our way.

I can’t decide if I just want the instructor to be quiet as we come to junctions and let me run through the stuff on my own, or if I should trust the fact that she’s taught other people to drive successfully and I should avoid messing with her system.  Now I wonder, briefly, if I should ask if she ever has taught anyone to drive.  Maybe all her students fail?  Now I’m wondering if I want to know that or not.


After a few miles, I got back into the swing of things, and junctions got a bit easier.  I’m drifting right at right turns, which is an automatic fail if you cross the line (I did) and I’m still not looking ahead enough at t-junctions.  There was one minor incident, where I came up to a roundabout (going right), slowed, checked I was clear to enter, and pleased with myself for not stalling, did so.  Sadly, there was an 18 wheel truck also on the roundabout at the same time, coming from the left, known generally as ‘my exit wasn’t clear’.  Known specifically as ‘SHIT! A TRUCK!’.

I slowed, and we didn’t die (much), but it kind of took the edge off the happiness I felt for not stalling.

Despite it being obvious that I can not talk and drive at the same time, my instructor insists on asking questions like, “what’s the speed limit on this road”, to which my normal garbled response translates to 30Idunno50?  Today, after the shocking start, we got to one junction and I asked ‘which way are we headed’?  My mouth was so dry at that moment, that it basically felt like someone had glued it shut.  Hearing yourself mumble, gurgle and splatch your way through the phrase “which way are we headed” is bad enough, but when your instructor says “sorry?” like you’re talking Dutch, it’s another kick in the confidence testicles.

We drove round a bit more, me trying to work some moisture back into my mouth, my instructor trying not to brake for me too often, and then headed over to a Tesco, or an Asda, or maybe a Morrison’s car park.  I tend not to look up from the road much so I’m not entirely certain.  Here, I learned the joys of reverse bay parking.  This seems like it might be useful, if I really wanted to reverse into an open parking bay with absolutely nothing else around me.  I did it three times (to the left) and once (to the right), and nailed it on every go except the first in which I was a bit wide.  I can control the car with the clutch perfectly well, move at painfully slow speeds trying to break my neck looking behind me, but when it comes to pulling away at junctions I continue to try and do it with the handbrake on, or the clutch too far up, or no gas.  Grrr, it’s annoying.

After this, we drove to some poor, unsuspecting street somewhere, and, to the great frustration of everyone who lives on the street (no doubt), learned how to reverse parallel park.  Nailed that 3 times too.

At one stage, while I was sitting alongside a parked car, basically blocking the road in both directions while I made observations (i.e. pretended to look in my mirrors and blind spots), some elderly couple pulled out of their drive and turned to come towards me.  I think I could hear their resigned sigh as they realised what I was doing, and they did a flawless 3 point turn (probably designed to make me feel inadequate), and drove off the other way.  I bet that place bloody loves driving instructors.

However, nailing the parking calmed me down, and pulling away from that and then driving home it was almost pleasant.

fozzydriving2I have decided that I know the basics now.  I’m confident I can stop, I have not once (yet) gone for the accelerator rather than the brake.  So I’m going to go with Greté to the local supermarket, get used to the clutch in our car, and then drive home.  If that seems okay, and if Greté makes it through without wanting to kill me, and I make it through without wanting to hide in shame for the rest of my life, I might try driving to and from work a couple of days a week.

Excellent news I’m sure for everyone who uses the same route I do.

I apologise in advance.