Tuesday 12 December 2017

The pain of failing your driving test: 'My confidence in my road-worthiness is diminished'

Fed up with the passenger seat, Elle Gordon wonders if she will ever pass her driving test . . . as does her father

Elle Gordon wonders if she will ever pass her driving test
Elle Gordon wonders if she will ever pass her driving test

'Would you ever 'bewwk' your driving test?" my father bellows, pronouncing the word 'book' in that unmistakable way that only Cavan people can. "Yes," I bellow back. But no, no, I know I won't. I have driving-test anxiety. Roadblock, if you will.

The first time I took my test, I rocked in, beaming - naive, you could call it. I cheerily waved goodbye to my mother as though I had already passed. "This will be a cinch," I thought. And so it began. We exited the test centre, with me checking my mirrors so over-exaggeratedly that I'm sure I resembled a driving ostrich. Cinch. We turned off with more of my elongated checks.

Hill start, handbrake, wobble back.

"Test is over."

"What?"

"That handbrake is faulty."

"Faulty? No, it can't be." It is. Two minutes later, I am back. My mother and I. Me in the passenger seat. Ashen. "Eighty eur-rose down the drain," my father will bellow. Oh well, next time.

The second time, I walked into the test centre a humbler version of myself with a handbrake that was definitely working. No smiles or small talk. Just honest-to-goodness concentration. Focus, my brain was yelling. I did my utmost to oblige. I went through the motions with military precision. Reverse: nailed it. Three-point turn: nailed it. Ostrich-like checking of mirrors: nailing it.

Then back to the test centre we drove, my heart lifting, the load lightening. Thank goodness, I begin to sigh . . .

"You failed."

"What?"

"You didn't check your mirrors enough." Flabbergasted.

Another 80 eur-rose. My confidence in my road-worthiness diminished.

For the most part, I don't even need a car. I live on the Luas line. There are bus stops near my house, so it is easy to forget about my poor old car, tucked away in a garage in Cavan. Forgotten. But there is something missing. To quote that Iggy Pop song, I am the passenger; in my case, it's starting to wear thin. At the weekend, I am often to be found wedged on a bus home to Cavan, a disgruntled face among the younger, hung-over ones and the older ones enjoying the day out. It is on these days that I try to remind myself to 'bewwk' my test. This reluctance has bred rustiness, which has led to another driving-related terror: Lessons with The Father.

My dad can be the mildest-mannered of men. Oh, he's the nicest man, people will say. Yes, I'll agree wholeheartedly.

But put that man in a car with his youngest daughter: pandemonium.

It always starts so well; sweet, even. His voice low, he will instruct me, "Now brake slowly at this sharp bend", which I will do without event.

"Gordons are great drivers," he will say. I bask. Slowly, I pick up the pace. "Easy," he will say again, sotto voce, "go easy." "I know," I say, relaxed and happy as I revert to my favourite thing: the chats. "Anyway, Dad, I was thinking . . ." "Pass that tractor." "What?" "Pass that tractor." "But it's fine, I like going this speed . . . " "Pass that tractor! You are holding up the roaaaad!" OK; foot, accelerate, out, in. Breathe. Glance at Father. Ashen. "Go easy," he will roar. "What??" "I said, 'Easy'," he roars, gripping any and all available parts of the car. "No, you didn't, you just said, 'Pass that tractor'." "You didn't have to do it at breakneck speed."

This cycle will go on for about 20 minutes, until finally neither of us is speaking, and I'm inwardly making plans to emigrate in the next day or so. "I'll get some lessons," I say curtly as we pull to a stop. Thirty eur-rose . . . and he's off again.

Later, my father, having been appeased by a plate of potatoes and the safety of solid ground, will assure me that he thinks I am a great driver.

"When are you going to 'bewwk' your test?" will begin in the next few hours.

So, I book it. You know what they say, lucky number three . . . oh, hang on, I think they also say that bad luck comes in threes. If you see me walking resignedly into Busaras, you'll know how it went.

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