The hour had come. The grace period was well and truly over, and it was time to bite the bullet. My destiny had arrived in the form of a Toyota Yaris emblazoned with School of Motoring.
Thankfully, my instructor turns out to be an affable gentleman and after the niceties and preliminaries have been exchanged, he lets me take the wheel. Look at me all grown up! No matter that I’m sweating like Peter Kay at the Apollo, I can do this!
Suddenly, an elderly lady appears on the road. I scream inwardly. I am gently encouraged to ease on the brakes so as not to kill the old dear. We do another loop of the housing estate and encounter the same woman. Evidently, she has an issue with footpaths. She angrily signals for me to pass by before resuming her position on the road. I’m so grateful she ignored the LEARNER DRIVER signs plastered all over the car and found the time in her day to give me a heart attack.
The ordeal is not over. I meet a car coming towards me in a tight space with parked cars either side. Mercifully, he reverses and allows me to pass with all the finesse of a goat behind the wheel. He must have smelt the fear emitting from my pores.
Given that this first venture was pretty nerve-racking, surely my practise session with SO will be a breeze? Or so I believe until I sit into the driver seat. When did this car become a military tank? I cannot see ANYTHING. Turn on the ignition, he says. I turn on the engine. Much to my surprise, these are not the same thing. R Kelly’s lyrical explanation of the remix to the ignition has proven somewhat useless in this instance.
SO: “Mind that hedge there.”
Me: “What hedge?!”
SO: “The one you’re about to drive into.”
This is a disaster. If I am unable to see blatantly visible shrubbery, what about kittens? And infants?! Granted, you rarely see a crawling baby let loose in a church car park, but you never know.
Conk. Conk. Conk. This is not a practise car. This is his baby, and if scratch it, I’m as good as single. I’m wearing out the clutch I know he needs to replace. I’m guzzling the diesel he just bought. The tension is palpable. His mouth says “Drive on, you’re improving!” but his eyes say “Please get as far away from my car as physically possible, you treacherous wench.”
Move into third gear, he says. I go to fifth for the craic. Not good for the car, it seems. Nothing I do is ever good enough for the car. I think me and the car are headed for Splitsville.
After a solid hour, I have successfully managed to start and stop the vehicle without dire consequence and our relationship has remained intact. For now. Sure didn’t Romeo and Juliet actually part ways due to her inability to perform hill starts and manoeuvre the Jack Lynch Tunnel?
Either way, I’ll know I’ve made it when I can parallel park like this lady.