Have you ever cursed your luck as you travel slowly behind a learner driver? We all sympathise with them but no one wants to share the road with one.
We were out with friends last night and the conversation came around to learning to drive. The group of us all have eldest children who have been learning or have learned to drive in the past few years. New laws in Ireland state that you can sit a theory test once you are seventeen and then after twelve classes with an approved instructor you can sit your test.
We began to share our own learning experiences.
Three of the girls were sisters who grew up on a farm. They were part of a large family, and it would be no lie to say their parents attitude to driving was “relaxed”. All were driving at sixteen. One of the girls was brought to a small parking area by her Dad and allowed to drive around it for a very short while. She managed to go forward and to turn but not a lot more, before the lesson was over. The following week she was to begin a summer job in a town about ten miles away. She got up that first morning and asked her mom who would bring her? Her mother looked a little taken aback and then said “Oh we thought you would take the car yourself”. My friend couldn’t believe her ears. Drive! How? But then her sixteen year old mind went to work. She had a boyfriend who lived over ten miles away, if she could drive to work, she should be allowed to drive to see him also. So her mum gave her the keys told her to stay in second gear, and that was how she “learned” to drive.
Her older sister told us that she drove regularly from the age of sixteen, and where ever she had to go she was told to take her sister too, for company in the car. They remembered driving along the twisty narrow country roads where they lived, and every time a car passed or came up behind them they pulled over until it was gone. They also regularly drove to the local dance together.
These dances began about ten o clock. The girls would set off an hour early in order to ensure they would arrive and park before any other car. The dance finished at twelve, but again they waited until every car had left before leaving the car park. Both agreed they were an accident waiting to happen, but lady luck was on their side and they got through those years safely.
I am a car driver for many years, and if I say so myself I would consider myself quite a competent one. Not only that but I have already on two occasions taught someone to drive.
My first “Client”, was my younger brother. I had been taught by my Dad a few years earlier, but my father was unwell with Motor Neurone disease, when my brother aged twenty was learning, so I agreed to help him. It was definitely not my smartest decision.
Even though it was many years ago I can remember us having so many “moments”. There was the time we passed a cyclist and just about knocked him off his bike. As I roared “Why the hell did you go so close to him?”, my brother replied, “Feckin cyclists, I hate them, they shouldn’t be allowed on the road”.
As the lessons continued I can remember going on more challenging drives. One day we entered a small village with very narrow roads. My brother was a little freaked out and rammed on the brakes every time a car came against us, shouting “Help”. I stayed calm and did my best to continue our lesson. I told him to take the next left “BUT BE VERY CAREFUL ( forgive the capitals but I want you all to know I did warn him) as it is a ninety degree bend and the road very narrow”. Well, my brother is obviously deaf or stupid, because he took that narrow ninety degree corner way too fast. We crossed the road and almost mounted the pavement. To this day I could pick the driver of the oncoming car out in a line out so close did we come. As our eyes met, my brother shouted and I roared. Thankfully we missed that oncoming car. For a while after we drove in silence for a short while before breaking our hearts laughing, imagining the wet seat under that poor driver. I know, it was neither a mature nor polite response to our near disaster, but very much in keeping with our sense of humour.
My second and may I say possibly last client was a member of my own family. For the sake of privacy I will not be overly descriptive, suffice to say on one occasion we came within inches of a stop sign (which was not on the road). As I took over the driving he gave out to me saying it was all my fault for not telling him to stop! On another day out we managed to stop cars approaching from three different directions because we “missed” the turn and found ourselves half on the road, half head first into a wall. Thankfully all the drivers gave me the “Aw look a real learner”. However I think his finest moment came when we took a bend a” bit” fast and drove onto the other side of the road, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, while he covered his eyes! Scary enough but moments later we arrived at a roundabout, adrenaline still at max, and drove straight through a roundabout, miraculously missing all other cars, whilst my son roared and shouted, “I hate f*cking driving”, and I replied with feeling, “so do I!”.
With two more children to go, I think it is time to remove my name from the possible instructor list. I’m getting older and the mere thought of getting into the car again with an L driver is enough to bring on a panic attack. However I may just fall short of telling them I’m terrified out of my mind, instead I’ll tell them that times have changed, and much and all as I’d love to teach them (cough, choke) with the new laws it is probably best that we pay for an instructor until they are more than able to drive.