I did not sleep well on Tuesday night. Well of course I didn’t – on Wednesday morning I had my inaugural driving test. Finally, at an age north of forty, I was going to attempt to get a license, to perform an activity , in which people young enough to be my children are legally allowed to engage.
As my scamtastic driving school – the Airport Driving School (the most expensive in the land that achieves its 96% pass rate, by only allowing pupils who are almost guaranteed to pass to sit the test in their cars) – were not allowing me to use its car, I was sitting my test in my friend’s Nissan Micra. Luckily I had some experience driving this motor.
I wasn’t a complete novice when it came to her individual personality – the car’s I mean. (I’m not the only one who has a slightly hallucinatory belief that cars have souls, am I?)
My friend picked me up at my house at 8.30am. The test was at 10. I had heard vicious rumour of applicants who had automatically failed the test, for not being present at the test centre fifteen minutes prior to the designated time. This was not a mistake that I’d be making.
As I drove through town, I experienced random little spasms of panic. However I remembered a different friend’s advice. He had told me that seeing as the Airport Driving School charge €150 to sit a mock test in one of their cars, I ought to treat the real test as a mock test – after all it only cost about half the price. By all means do my utmost to pass. But not to base my value as a human being on the result. It was my first test. Of course I was nervous.
I entered the waiting room to be greeted by a vista of acne. But of course. Most of the people waiting were younger than me. It made sense. Ireland is a country where driving is a more necessary life skill than in the Netherlands, so people tend to learn earlier.
I have always been tardy to the party. I waited until later in life.
The tester called me into the office. She seemed like a jolly woman. Perhaps I have been brainwashed by the oppressive force of the patriarchy, but I was expecting the person, in whose hands lay the fate of my driving future, to be a grey person of the male persuasion. Called Norbert.
She asked me to identify myself, to explain various road signs to her (how we laughed at my witty explanation of a contra-flow bus lane); and various rules of the road. Oh no. One must not drive when the tread depth on the tire is below 1.6mm.
Then out to the car. My friend had cunningly parked it in a position from where it would be easy to depart.
The tester didn’t say a single word to me. I stifled the urge to start babbling at her.
The brakes and lights all worked. I aced in my knowledge of the secondary controls. My voice grew husky as I explained how one would let a car travelling behind you know that you were turning left, when your indicators are bust.
And then the actual drive itself.
For the first two minutes I thought I had a chance of passing. I was calm, measured, in control.
She asked me to pull over to the kerb, and then to depart again.
Ah yes. The hills start. I did my checks. I put the gear stick into first. I turned on my indicator. I checked my blind spot. I lifted the handbrake. I eased my foot off the clutch.
The engine responded with a maniacal whirring. Oh hell to the no. What was this? I placed my foot on the gas, and the car lurched out into the middle of the road. No oncoming traffic approaching thankfully.
Whew. Perhaps the tester hadn’t noticed?
We continued. It seemed to go quite smoothly.
Fifteen minutes later, when I reversed the car around the corner into the kerb, I knew it was all over.
I also knew that my devious plot to offer a bribe to pass the test, would probably get me arrested. I stayed quiet.
Back in the office, her face looked sad.
‘I am afraid it is not good news…’
I left the office, met my friend outside and we departed. She drove.
I was feeling a bit withered.
As I logged on to my computer, at my desk in the wastelands, I was feeling contemplative.
That’s never a good sign.
Onto the internet I went.
I have applied for my next test.