‘You’ve given it a go but maybe driving just isn’t for you?’ – my mother.
‘How can’t you do it!?’ – my brother, Anthony.
‘I don’t understand! You’re not usually this thick. How can’t you drive?!’ – my mate, Emma.
‘Driving’s fucking easy. What’s wrong with you?’ – my best mate, Phil.
‘Slow, turn, TURN, STOP, STOP! STOPPPP! STOP NOW! BRAKE! BRAKE! JESUS!’ – my loving fiancée, Laura.
These are just a handful of comments I’ve received from some of my nearest and dearest in relation to my overblown, protracted and quite ridiculously inept attempts at learning to drive. In all honesty I thought I’d have killed myself on the road by now, and by that I mean in a fit of bug-eyed frustration whereby I’ve flipped and high-tailed the car at 80mph off the side of a bridge – the irony being that I wouldn’t know what sodding gear it was meant to be in in order to reach 80mph. As it is I’ve struggled through with only a few minor scrapes, just the two crashes, a handful of deranged looking drivers throwing various hand signals at me, a hopeful confidence that has been well and truly crushed, and a bank account that spits bile at me whenever I attempt to withdraw money from it to pay for a lesson.
Those above quotes are pretty representative of just how bewildered I am at my inability to learn the basics of driving. It’s utterly infuriating that I don’t have a sodding clue what I’m doing especially when I see some of the half-evolved fuckwits that currently patrol the roads in their souped up little shitwagons. I hate to spaff on my own ego here but how come some post-pubescent pisspot with a face so smug you’d happily punch it every day until the end of time can whizz around in their pimp-mobile with one finger on the steering wheel and fly into a parking space with perfect precision at 65mph while I spend about 15 minutes attempting to adjust my seat, start the car and move away before stalling at the first junction? It’s a desperately infuriating state of affairs that my brain just refuses to engage with the concept of driving.
The way I’m braying on about it, anyone stumbling across this post would understandably presume I’ve only had about a half-dozen lessons and that I’ll eventually get the hang of it so it’s probably pertinent to leave a reminder here that I’m 36 lessons in. Thirty-six. That equates to about 60 hours worth of tuition with various instructors, all of whom are baffled, shocked or a combination of both that I can only pull away at junctions 50% of the time, repeatedly drive through red lights because I’m too busy staring at my feet wondering how my left foot has ended up on the accelerator, or constantly swerve across lanes as if I’ve spent the preceding few hours mainlining whisky into my basilic vein. In all seriousness, it depresses me that I’m completely unable to grasp the fundamentals of manoeuvring a car especially when I’m a fabulous passenger driver. I can see idiocy and dangerous driving a mile off yet when I decide to drive a car I’m the epitome of it. It’s like I undergo a small but vicious lobotomy the minute I put the key in the ignition.
After 60 hours of driving tuition I still struggle to put the car into the correct gear resulting in it spewing out a noise similar to what I can only presume is the automobile equivalent of hocking up a massive pile of phlegm and regurgitating it onto the road; whenever I approach a junction or roundabout I’m unable to prevent the car going into what I call ‘judder mode’ whereby the car shakes relentlessly as I’ve no idea what gear it’s meant to be in, and suggests I’d be much more at home driving a car on the dodgems at the funfair; parking has become an exercise in absolute embarrassment as I have zero spatial awareness, and it’s still absolutely mesmerising to me that humans can manoeuvre a car into a small rectangular shape without slamming it into an adjoining parked vehicle – my parking attempts consist of eight to ten manoeuvres, three stalls which include knocking the wipers on and off multiple times, and several bumps of the kerb and anyone who happens to be walking near it, spread out over two parking spaces. It’s ritual humiliation and I’m actually paying hard cash for it.
The most recent indignity involved a roundabout, a tractor, my instructor grabbing the wheel shouting ‘fuck!’ at the top of his lungs, a lot of screaming on my part, and the car thumping into the huge tractor wheels before we spluttered to the side of the road whereby I ended the lesson early and returned home to empty the drinks cabinet. I don’t think driving was meant to be this cumbersome.
One of the more annoying aspects of being this far into failing at learning to drive is the relentless positivity from other human beings about my progress, or lack thereof. It’s quite impressive the level at which people dismiss my concerns and overall fears when even thinking about actually getting inside a vehicle, let alone attempting to drive the bastard. If one more person suggests I’m better than I think I am, that it’ll all just click into place, that I should just stick with it, that I’ll get there eventually, or that it’ll all be worth it in the end, then I’m quite happy to go all Michael Douglas in Falling Down and unload on them with a hastily made sawn-off and a lot of sweating and pontificating about how bad the burgers are in my local fast food restaurant. What these bad prats don’t realise is that I’ve developed such a fear of cars that I now develop nausea whenever a car pulls up outside of my house lest I panic and think someone will knock on the door and ask me to drive it for some reason. I’m actually hypothesising imaginary scenarios involving having to move a car from A to B. That’s not good. The last driving lesson I had I politely asked my instructor if I could just sit in the passenger seat, watch him drive and learn that way instead of actually driving. He looked at me as if I’d just been sick on his lap, and bundled me into the driving seat as if I was being kidnapped.
Of course, the upsetting thing about all of this is that I actually want to drive. I want to be able to get around town without having to rely on public transport and the consequent guarantee that I’ll be accompanied on the bus journey by a 15 stone human sasquatch who slams his globulous frame right next to me, smells of wet dog and keeps inadvertently touching me with his fat arse each time the bus goes round a roundabout. I can do without all that malarkey.
This is something of a serious and sobering blog post as it’s the end of an era for me. An era that’s cost me my dignity, my finances, my patience, temperament and sanity, any semblance of confidence I once had, and a highly attuned hatred of anything that’s able to drive a car. Obviously I’m not bitter at all. Obviously. That would just be silly. Silly and immature. Silly and immature and pathetic. But fuck you, you petrolhead fucks.
As a postscript, I’ll leave you with this quote and clip from the existential genius, Mark Corrigan of Peep Show:
‘That’s it. I resign. I give up. No more lessons. The machines have won. I shall take to the hills and live with the tree-folk people’.