GET OFF THE ROAD, HIPPIE BEHIND THE WHEEL: PT2
August 6, 2021
Driving lesson one:
I was standing nervously outside my small block of flats in Hampton on a fresh summer morning in August, waiting for my instructor to turn up for our first lesson.
I had not slept well that night as my mum was in hospital having an operation to remove an aggressive cancerous tumour. I had also just found out Psymera had been postponed which had some troubling implications for my hippie clothing business as I was meant to be running a market stall there.
Needless to say I was not in the best place for my first ever driving lesson. My heart was in my mouth and I was trying to rationalise in my mind why I had such a fear around this driving lark.
Soon enough my instructor turned up in a small blue car (I do not know makes of car), which had the sign of the driving school and a large red L on top.
“Shit, everyone will know I’m a learner driver!” ‘Well, der!’
The blonde lady in the car did a double take when she saw this hippie guy with a man bun and a long beard standing at the side of the road, but she soon smiled at me, and I nervously smiled back.
“You are looking a bit nervous there Stephen; there is nothing to worry about.”
“I’m literally shitting my pants and I don’t know why” I answered back, regretting my potty mouth.
“My name is Carol (name changed), and I am going to be your driving instructor; I believe you have booked two, one hour and a half lessons a week?”
“Yes, I’m hoping to get through this quickly, if I can overcome my nerves” I replied.
“I will see what I can do and please don’t be nervous, after a couple of lessons you will calm down and start to get your confidence. Now come and sit here in the passenger seat and if you don’t mind showing me your driving licence and then you can tell me what you know about cars and driving.”
I get in the passenger seat where she checks and records my provisional driving licence and then she ticks a few boxes on her tablet before turning to face me.
“Thanks for that. OK Stephen, tell me what experience you have of cars and then give me a rundown of what you know about all these controls.”
I smile nervously and say in a nervous high-pitched voice “I’ve been a passenger in many cars, I know there are lots of different makes and some are automatic, some are stick and they can run on different types of energy like diesel, petrol or electric”. I smile thinking I did rather well there.
“And the controls?” oh dear…
“Urm, well that’s easy, there is a steering wheel, a gear stick and hand brake. Then there are two pedals, an accelerator, and the brake. Those dials are for petrol, speed and water but I don’t know which is which or what those other three dials do.” I sit smiling like a Cheshire cat that has got the cream.
“Just two pedals then?”
“Yes of course.”
“OK Stephen, not bad for a beginner, let me run you through the controls and just to let you know, there is a third pedal; the clutch.”
“Oh really, what does that do, work the windscreen wipers? ha, ha, ha……….”
“Right…shall we begin…”
And so, it began…
First of all she drove me around to a quite street not far from my flat, parked up and then got out of the car.
“Right Stephen, in you get”
“In I get to where??”
“The driving seat of course”
“You cannot learn to drive in the passenger seat”
“I could try>>>>whimper”
So in I got. I immediately realised I was far too big for this car and we had to move the seat right back for me to fit.
It was clear this car was not ideal for my lessons, after adjusting the seat, steering wheel and mirrors, I could see my feet were touching the bottom of the control panel making it hard for me to ease off the pedals.
Nether the less we continued; cockpit procedures learnt.
She went through the pedals with me and explained their function. I never realised it was all so complicated. The clutch being the most important pedal.
I found it unnatural to use the pedals when we did a standing test with the engine on.
That’s when it all went wrong. I was so tired and pre-occupied with thinking about my mum I stopped listening and all was a blur.
She asked me to steer around to a gate, reverse and then drive down and pass a grey car before parking at the curb in front of it.
I took my foot off the brake and the car started to move, ahhhhhhhhh!!!
Next thing I knew we had reached the gate at 100 miles per hour and the instructor was gripping the side of her chair looking green.
“Less power on the pedal Stephen, I had to use the brake to stop us ending up in that field. Now lets reverse around to the right…SLOWLY!!”
I managed to reverse quite slowly but I oversteered causing us to go round in a complete circle but some how managed to end up facing the direction we needed to travel.
I then managed to drive at quite a nice speed in the direction of the grey car (I was driving! yay!) but for some reason the instructor grabbed the wheel and started steering to the left.
“Lets get you on the right side of the road shall we”.
I was panicking and sweating and shaking at this point but I managed to park beautifully in front of the grey car; breaking gently.
“There we are, I parked quite well didn’t I?” I said nervously.
“You did but I asked you to drive past the grey car and park behind it; YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME!!!” She shouted angrily.
I didn’t like that, it was only my first ever lesson and she was not at all patient with me. Loosing her temper and getting shouty.
We drove back to my flat in silence.
She dropped me off and simply said “see you tomorrow”.
For me, learning to drive wont work if the instructor isn’t patient with me. I don’t want to be rushed, I’m in no hurry to pass; I want to get it right.
This just resulted in me getting more flustered than ever.
I had to lay down in a dark room after that, unsure if this particular instructor was right for me. The car is too small for my size and she is very inpatient towards a complete beginner.
We decided to cancel my next two lesson because I realised I needed to sort mum out first and get my head straight. Lessons resume on the 17th… but will it be with her. I need to decide.
I do want to learn to drive and will continue lessons but learning whilst my mum is fighting cancer and while my business is struggling due to Covid issues like festival postponements, is probably not the best time to start. So I will wait a few weeks then start again.