Journey to a licence of frustration

18 months of lessons

4 instructors

5 tests

A range of 7 years

Approx. £2040….

..later…. and I finally achieved the piece of paper boasting my driving licence! This was a few years ago now, but we were talking about this at work yesterday and it made me think of this time of practical torture for me. Naturally, by the figures above, I have a lot of stories to tell on the subject! It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I would happily do my degree again and open my arms wide to the thought of child-birth!

I am not practically minded or bodied, as you may have gathered if you are a regular reader. I am also not very coordinated. I am also a bit of a wimp. Combine this and I made a perfect learner drive for an instructor, who is more bothered about getting lots of money; rather than passing their students quickly 😉 And… the amount of instructors I had, some of them must have thought this!

I just found it all so difficult. I struggled with clutch control, road awareness, other cars and the maneuvers! Whereas,  the theory past of the test, I passed easily the first time. I just couldn’t put the knowledge into practice. I was so nervous the whole time too and I used to physically dread my lessons. Hence, why I went through so many instructors. The first one, whilst I was at sixth form, was recommended by a few friends and fellow students. They were all fine with her but I had a really bad experience. I don’t know if it was the reason I said above, and she did just want to take advantage of my fragile learning state and pocket my pounds, or if she just didn’t know how to handle a really nervous student. We would get onto a main road and she would say things like;

‘just drive…’

this freaked me out. Wasn’t I paying her to tell me how to drive?! If I knew that, I wouldn’t be having lessons! She also used to book me in for 1 hour and a half lessons and tell me she only had time to give me an hour and still charge me the full amount. The naive 18-year-old me paid this this. Only for so long though, until I quit her services a few weeks later. I wanted to report her, because she also got very impatient with me and almost angry at times… but I was aware that she knew where I lived and seemed to have permanent PMT and she did know how to drive a fast car…. I didn’t want me parents to have to pay for new brick work.

My neighbours did have to pay for new brick work, however. Not because of me funnily enough! A few years after the PMT instructor, my sister was going through the same traumatic experience of learning too. We both bought KAs to learn in. She went out in hers to practise with my Dad for the first time (she had had some lessons already) and

…. she drove straight into the house at the bottom of the road!

She panicked when a car was coming and froze. She couldn’t brake and my Dad’s attempt to yank the hand brake didn’t work either! So, I guess it runs in the family 😉 My sister also took 5 tests to pass and this house crash incident also made me even more nervous in my process (if that was possible) as I was afraid it would happen to me too! My Dad still hasn’t recovered to this date 😉

I would just like to add, that it didn’t take me 7 years to pass. I put a ‘range’ of 7 years above. This is because after the PMT woman and an old man, who couldn’t remember what I had done from week to week….

‘shall we go on the A38 again this week?’

‘Erm, we haven’t done that yet!’ *Panic, Panic*

…. I decided to leave it for a few years, whilst I was at university. I didn’t need a car for that anyway and I knew I would be broke enough as a student anyway to pay for lessons, let alone a car! So I stopped. No more nightmare lessons.

I started again after uni as promised but it wasn’t any easier. My 3 years of maturing at university hadn’t aided me in any way; I was still a nervous wreck behind the wheel. I had a great instructor next, though. He had passed my boyfriend, his twin and their mum. This instructor had patience by the bucketful. It was with him that I got through my theory test; learnt all that I needed to. A dangerous driving fault (going round a mini roundabout the wrong way), nearly crashing into a lorry and nearly knocking a cyclist off his bike later and I was ready for my first test! This was also to be my instructor’s last test because he was retiring. I really wanted to pass for him just as much as me. I didn’t. In fact…

I failed before I even left the test centre!

Yup. I did a bay park and was so far out the lines that I wanted to  scream ‘don’t even bother!’ at the examiner who went out to inspect it. Surely, she could tell we  were more at an angle than a parallelogram! Very annoying. But, I did the rest of the test because

  • 1.) I’d paid for it
  • 2.) It was good experience
  • 3.) There was still a glimmer of hope that she’d let me off if I did the rest well. I did (only 3 minors) but she didn’t.

I failed.

I always made sure, after each fail, that I booked my next test straight away. It wasn’t just my bad driving that got in the way of me passing though. Sometimes I felt that the driving universe was against me. One time, the instructor’s car broke down the day before my test. I had to take the test in my KA, which was fine but the thought of me panicking and there being no dual brakes, terrified me! I survived that test, but failed because I cut up a lorry on the A38 😉

Another time, I arrived for my test and it got cancelled due to bad fog. Just what are fog lights for!?

But in the end… I passed! I had an instructor fondly referred to as the ‘mirror man’ on that day. I had him for my 4th test too but he had to fail me. (I can’t remember why that time; by this point they had all blurred into one!) For this, I knew his nickname so I checked my mirrors as much as Peter Andre does every morning. I was looking in them every few minutes ,more than checking the road 😉 I even did my maneuvers… yes I snaked round the corner in my ‘reverse round a corner’ but he said it was OK (he probably thought ‘god, just get her passed and out of here!’) I was so happy to pass that I cried. But it turns out, that was just the start…..

Driving is still a nightmare to me. I don’t go doing all those stupid things anymore. I like to think I am quite a careful driver. But I still hate it. Whenever, I go onto a new road or have to drive to a strange place, I get really anxious. If there were no other cars on the road, then I would be fine 😉 When I started my new job – the first time I had actually needed to drive to a place on a regular basis – I went down the A38 the wrong way! I am getting better but I don’t think  I will ever like driving. I do it because I have to and the increased independence it gives me. When I am on holiday from school, I rarely use my car and will happily walk everywhere when I can.

… so I now have it. My licence of frustration… and what a journey it has been!

I hope that has made you smile, or even possibly laugh. If you are learning at the moment – don’t let this put you off, but just think ‘you can’t be any worse than me and my sis!’ Oh and it helps to leave lorries and cyclists alone and to go around roundabouts the right way 😉