“Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.”

Nothing comes easily to me, so how long have you got? Still, it’s a relief to see that the WordPress ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ is back on more familiar self-deprecatory territory. But rather than bore you – yet – with my current struggles to master the peculiarly French card game Belotte, let’s delve a little more deeply into the archives of my inabilities.

There’s at least (at the very least) one thing that I cannot do which almost every other adult can: drive a car.

Although it’s not that I didn’t want to. Once.

Or for the want of trying. Once.

I started my driving lessons on my seventeenth birthday (who didn’t?). The instructor drove us off to a handily deserted part of the nearby council estate and I got behind the wheel for the first time.

I was certainly eager. Indeed, I remember asking the instructor what exactly a ‘racing change’ was. His reply intimated that, as I was still looking for the clutch, perhaps I was getting a little ahead of myself.

He had no idea how far ahead. The tone for all my subsequent motoring efforts was set during this first foray, when I took the expression ‘going through a roundabout’ rather too literally and drove straight on, right into the traffic island. This prompted the sort of reaction you might expect when asking a mechanic whether that funny sound coming from the engine was serious. Tires were kicked and heads were shaken very slowly.

Still, I persisted with the lessons, although without much progress towards basic competence. I should have known really. The act of changing gear, given that it requires doing two things at once – depressing the clutch and shifting the stick – was always going to be beyond me, involving, as it did, hand/foot co-ordination. And while you’re doing all this you’re also expected to look where you’re going. Seriously?

Somehow, though, I managed not to hit anything else and was eventually adjudged sufficiently competent to take my test. Or perhaps my instructor figured that if I got official confirmation of how bad I was, I might come to my senses and forget the whole thing, thereby significantly increasing the life expectancies of the pair of us.

How right he was.

My test started well enough. I read the distant numberplate without a problem and nailed the Highway Code questions. I believe I even remembered to check my mirror before moving off. So far, so good.

It sort of went downhill from there – apart from the bit where the increasingly tight-lipped instructor asked me to reverse round a corner – uphill and into a road with cars parked on both sides. Not easy. Well, not for the first three goes anyway.

But I don’t remember hitting anything, so I guess the emergency stop must have been okay too. However, I knew it was not going particularly well and I was already resigned to failure before we came to a T-junction and I was asked to turn left. I’m pretty sure I looked in all the proper directions in the proper order, but nonetheless we almost got T-boned by a van that seemed to fly out of nowhere (I was turning into another road with cars parked on both sides; that guy really had it in for me).

Maybe even that wouldn’t have been irrecoverable if I hadn’t at that point slammed my fists against the steering wheel and given the other driver a mouthful of abuse. Once the examiner told me to calm down I was in no doubt that the game was up.

We negotiated our way back to the test centre in silence. We went through the formality of him being sorry to have to tell me that on this occasion I had not been successful. Then he gave me the sheet with all the elements of the test listed on it. There were a lot of crosses and not many ticks.

I showed it to my instructor. ‘Blimey’ was all he said.

And that was the last time I have ever been in charge of a motor vehicle on the public highway. And you should be very thankful because, almost entirely lacking both co-ordination and patience, I know I would have made a terrible driver – even if I’d ever managed to pass my test.

Honestly, though, the fact that I can’t drive doesn’t bother me at all. After all, I can never be the designated driver.

One thought on “Driven

  1. Pingback: Confession Time | the only deadhead in the hameau

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