Confessions of a Provisional Driver: Practise makes perfect

I recently returned to Galway last week for a night just before starting a work placement in Dublin. Getting off the Park and Ride bus, I inhaled the smell of NUIG like the scent of a long lost lover. As I bid farewell to the driver, whose cheerful greeting to every passenger has never failed to brighten my day in the past year and a half, he asked me a question which cracked a metaphorical whip in my head.

“Have ye still not passed the drivin’ test yet?”

“Ha, ha, no, no. I still have four more columns to write, ha, HA.”

My own words hit me like the Park and Ride bus. At the rate I’m progressing, I’ve time to write about forty more columns and not have passed the test.

In the following days the bus driver’s words swirled around my head like a hypnotic 80’s music video. My final two lessons looming, I decided the time is nigh to start practicing the dreaded manoeuvres.

Like the golden child I am, I made arrangements for my Mam to visit her friend in a village nearby – her friend, who happens to live in an estate and opposite a conveniently positioned corner, with optimum reversing potential. In she goes, and in the car I stay.

I spend the time it takes my mother to finish a cup of tea reversing and re-reversing and re-re-reversing around the same bloody corner. So, all in all about three years. After a particularly dramatic thump as I descend yet again from the kerb, I spot a figure strolling towards me in my rear view mirror.

I’m thinking, here we go. Some narky neighbour just relishing the chance to kick me out of his estate that he funded and built with his own two hands, presumably. I reposition for another reversal and calmly consider the ways in which I could tell him that he has no right to kick me out of his estate as I pay road tax and am therefore entitled to reverse and re-reverse and re-re-reverse around any damn corner I like.

The possibilities are three-fold:

  1. Nod quickly, park and scurry into my Mam for a consolatory biccie.
  2. Apologize profusely, play dumb, grab Mam and go.
  3. Cry, confess, beg for forgiveness, leg it and leave my Mam.

By the time the knock came on the window I’m on the verge of going full C.

“Howaya?”

“Hi yeah, I’m really sorry I must be wrecking you’re head going around this kerb. I’m finished now, I swear. I’m never gonna’ pass this bloody test anyway. Look take the car, I’m so sorry I –“

“Hold on now missus. Would’ye calm down. As a man who’s spent d last twenty years drivin’ vans an’ lorries I just wanted’t give ye some advice.”

Dumbfounded, I sit listening and nodding and replying with awkward laughs, which flood from relief. Good advice it is, too, and I have to almost beg him not to bring me out a cup of tea and a few biscuits to keep me going.

“You’re doin’ absolutely savage missus, yer flyin’ it ye just need sum confidence. And tea, jays are ye sure ye don’t want a cuppa tea? Yer always welcome t practice in dis estaayshe missus.”

The exchange was brief considering the time I’d spent in that 4 metre radius, but it was sweet. I felt positively fuzzy after my new life coach’s kindness and, who am I kidding – blatant lies.

I was nowhere near ‘savage’ before, but I’m a definitely a little more savage now.

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