I have a complicated relationship with my driving licence.
Some people may feel like that’s an odd statement to make about an inanimate object, but bear with me.
I started to take lessons at the age of 17, mostly because my mother pestered me about it constantly until I agreed to find an instructor. I went through a few as the school I originally contacted kept sending new people. I would open the front door and be looking at a stranger every week, who wanted to see what I could already do before learning anything new – a ploy, I’m sure, to make more money.
Finally, I found an instructor who stuck with me – which he did for almost two years. Within this time, I failed my test six times and decided that I would never pass so I should probably give up. On my very last test, I got myself into such a state of panic that I had to stop the car and throw up.
So, I threw in the towel and decided to become a full-time pedestrian – except for short space of time I had a bicycle before it was stolen. Just after this, I got ill, leading to my diagnosis of MS in 2013. Even if I’d wanted to take it up again, my health became my number one priority, pushing eating cake into second place and driving to about 100th.
I also clung on to the fact that out of my parent’s four children, only two of us had passed our driving tests. However, this changed and I became the only one – and then I became the only one who didn’t have a fiancé or spouse (another story entirely).
In the three years it took me to decide to give driving another go, my mother had mentioned it in passing a few times. This changed as soon as I said I was interested again. Suddenly, she was on the phone to everyone she knew with kids, asking for the names of the instructors they’d passed their tests with. The intensity grew even more when I actually got back behind the wheel, as she’d asked me every week when my lesson was, if I was definitely having one and how did it go.
My very patient driving instructor was an irritating well of optimism, never once accepting that I felt I was crap at driving. But, he helped me pass on the seventh time. I think the nerves didn’t really hit me as hard this time, as life had shown me there are more important things to worry about that getting sent a pink piece of plastic in the post.
I quickly bought a car – he’s called Mania, as his registration starts ‘WM’ – and hit the open road.
Not really the open road, just the roads to Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester City Centre to be precise.
I can now confidently say that I hate driving. I mean really, really hate it. I can see the upsides (freedom, no public transport, sitting next to strangers and car-eoke), but the downsides are enormous (city centre driving, almost running over pedestrians and rolling into the back of your mother’s car while she’s sat in yours).
Here are the things I’ve learned so far:
- Driving is lonely, as the only person to talk to is the breakfast radio DJ who can’t answer back.
- Driving is boring. All there is to look at is the road, other cars and the occasional sheep.
- Driving is scary. I almost ran over the same pedestrian three times in the space of 15 minutes in the city, as she kept crossing without looking and had headphones on. If her ears had been free, she’d have heard me offer to lend her my glasses to look where she’s going and possibly some expletives.
- My favourite word to call drivers who cross me is ‘slag’, as in ‘YOU SLAAAAG’.
- I don’t like having passengers, particularly my parents. My mum makes noises like ‘ooh’ and ‘argh’ because I’ve told her to shut up and stop telling me things are in front of me. I have my own pair of eyes, thank you very much.
- Singing in the car is a positive. I like to belt out power ballads very loudly and I don’t mind other drivers being able to see, as I’m providing an entertainment service.
- You can’t snack and drive. Eating a croissant will lead to your interior being covered in flakes of pastry – you have been warned.