stories worth a thousand words #46



The sticker Irish learner drivers must display on their cars till they pass their test. The funny thing about our test here is, if you fail it, you can still drive home.

Written: December 5, 2004

If I had wanted to, I could have requested a cancellation when I sent in my application for my driving test in December 2002, and sat the test within about six weeks.

Instead, like many other big decisions in my life up to now, I decided to let it happen as late as I possibly could, and thus had to wait over a year before finally receiving my date of March 5, 2004.

There was only one other time when I was ever behind the wheel driving my black 95 Golf that I was badly lacking confidence. That was when I had to ask MyX to come with me as I got some petrol shortly after I bought it back in spring 2001. Something about having her sitting beside me rattled my self assurance; I guess since I was still blaming myself completely for the breakdown of our marriage at the time, my self esteem suffered when around her, so in the short journey up to the petrol station, I managed to stall a couple of times and even hit the kerb once.

When either Sandra or the kids were with me, it was a totally different story. I was able to focus and implement all I had been taught in my lessons. Even my mother made a positive comment when she first witnessed my abilities when I picked her up from the airport that year, and that’s saying something! Stalling and kerb-hitting were things of the past very quickly.

Despite all of my reinforcement and experience, I was absolutely terrified about my test. For me, aged almost 35, it was make or break; not that I would have been suicidal had I failed or anything, but it would have been a setback possibly even more serious than the two redundancies and the separation had been. There were only two ways that day was going to go, and I guess I was afraid to even dream about passing for fear of jinxing the whole thing.

So why had I not been driving before then? There were several factors. First, I was never encouraged to ride a bike as a youngster, and was thus denied a basic grounding in the big bad world of negotiating main roads.

Then my grandfather gave, yes GAVE his ’71 Beetle, which he had shipped from California, to the sacristan of the church in Booterstown, on account of his reaching his 70th birthday and being too proud to re-take his driving test as the law demanded. When I asked him why I couldn’t have it, he laughed and muttered something about my never being able to afford car insurance, and thus the subject of me driving was never broached with him again!

All through college I was happy to virtually live on the 17 bus; the route connected my house to both UCD and MyX’s house in Walkinstown. Maybe if the lack of motor was making it hard to find a girlfriend I would have been more enthusiastic; anyway I was happy to sit down the back two or three times a day listening to my walkman.

Then came two years’ living in the USA with MyX, where it would have been pointless to learn to drive since we always intended to return. When we eventually did, our first child was on the way, so on limited resources we had to establish routines quickly.

With the baby about six months old, I got myself a job downtown, while MyX was employed by the Central Bank out in Sandyford. I could easily get a bus, so if we were to get a car it made sense that she should drive so the baby could go to her crèche and mummy could go on to work.

Also the fact that male insurance can often be more than three times that for women (something I call The Testosterone Tax) meant it made sense all round for her to drive and me to be passenger for the time being.

The “time being” eventually came to represent quite a long period, as our subsequent mortgage on the house in Clondalkin made all hope of a second car nigh on impossible. It was only when I was offered the post of surveyor in Milltown Gas that I finally received the push I needed to get off my ass and do something about getting the car.

Well, I suppose I have to concede that my inheritance from a relative gave me the financial clout to overcome the high premiums for the years before I qualified! We were talking around €2000 per year!!!

And so on the morning of Friday, March the 5th of this year, I set off for the driving centre out in Tallaght. My confidence should have been at its peak; my five pre-test lessons with the ISM went very well, all hash had to be out of my system, and I had the cushion of only needing to report failure to Sandra.

The tester was a middle-aged man from the country. We drove the one route my instructor never took me on. I was pumping sweat from every pore the whole time. I wish I could properly explain just how happy I was when he said I’d done it. Thousands pass every year, and I was just as good as them. I nearly cried.

Just like I expected, reporting my success to everyone was met with relatively indifferent congratulations, except of course from Sandra, who told me she always knew I would pass. Even today, exactly nine months later, I still find myself punching the air in delight as it crosses my mind while driving.

So why did I change my passing the test from a formality into a fifteen year ordeal? Finding the answer to that very question will go a long way to snap me out of this funk I’m in right now, as I have a good few so-called ordeals in my life that still need re-labelling!!!

© JL Pagano 2004


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Anna said…
Sorry to read that you are in a funk... hope you are feeling better soon!

By the way, from my perspective you did what you could when you were ready. There is no point judging your then self through your now eyes.

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