I got my red Ps

I eventually passed the driving test…
After six appointments and five actual driving tests, I finally passed. It was a frightening testament to perseverance (or bare faced stubbornness).

As anyone who knows me is aware, I am not a good driver; I’m easily distracted by interesting conversations, shiny things beside the road and even the odd profound thought, I am terrible at judging distance and am totally unaware of the width of the vehicle I am driving and I intensely dislike the whole process of driving a car. Despite all these things I finally managed to pass.

The first test I missed due to writing the time down wrong in my diary (subconsciously avoiding). The second and third tests were with a male tester who was very efficient and professional, I was VERY nervous and talked myself through the entire test (yes..out loud, complete with muttered curses and small EEKs), during this phase I found out that intersections are not my thing.

I went home and practiced intersections in my head. I drove to work most days which kept me in practice on the road at least. I am actually not bad at driving on country roads and there is very minimal traffic anyway most of the year. On my fourth test I had a female tester, she was very calming and friendly and I was able to pretend that I was just giving a friend a lift somewhere, which calmed my mind somewhat. I still failed (at a damned intersection of course), but I felt I did much better this time.

The fifth and final test day dawned and I had not driven at all for a week or so, I was at the point of looking for reasons to give up on the whole show. I decided that morning not to care whether I passed or not. I  drove into town, drove around the streets a bit (with total disregard for anyone) and went for my test. I walked in and greeted my tester (the same woman as last time) with a friendly smile and off we went. During the test we chatted about dogs, living out of town and our favorite gardens, I was at ease and it felt as if I was just giving a friend a lift again. To my complete surprise I managed to complete the course without hitting anyone or making any huge mistakes.

The relief at passing was profound and I am left wondering if I can just stay on my red P plates and not have to sit any more tests (I have no need to go faster than 90km/hr and it’s best not to add alcohol to any driving attempt anyway). I am now driving myself to work and have managed to fit in one trip to the dump on my way to work. I still don’t enjoy the driving at all, it terrifies me and the level of concentration I have to maintain for an extended time is very draining. However I do enjoy getting home before dark (some days I can make this happen) and being able to do small jobs on the way home. The biggest drawback of driving myself and not having to wait for a lift is in my knitting time.

For years I have managed to get a decent amount of knitting done in the passenger seat of a car, on a bus and at cafes or bus stops. Now my knitting is mostly happening while on playground duty (yes, I can knit without looking) and in the evenings, which is, in turn cutting into my spinning, pottery, weaving and other crafting time.

I did manage to make a cute little yarn bowl as a gift though.

I also made a little gold one to sell.

I took this photo of Mt Lindsay on the way up to Brisbane to pick up my daughter (yes the car was stopped).

There is still doubt in my mind about whether having a license and driving is worth all the effort and stress it takes to get here, and the inevitable cycle of having a car to get to work and working to support the car. I guess time will tell.

Learning to drive – Uh oh

As I am on the brink of becoming a teacher, I have had to learn to drive. Teachers need to be able to come to school early and stay late. I have always been against learning to drive; I’m not good at it and not being good at it can kill people (you can see my point). However, as it is now a necessity I have bought myself a little car (after much scrimping and saving) and got my Learner’s permit.

So far I have learned that I will probably never enjoy driving, cars cost a lot and partners should not be allowed to give driving advice;

Enjoying driving (or not); Surely the piloting of multiple tonnes of metal and glass powered by semi controlled explosions in unpredictable circumstances where the risk of injury or death is ever present is not a relaxing pursuit? In fact it may even qualify as an extreme sport, reserved for adrenaline junkies and those with a death wish. Many people have told me they find driving relaxing, but I’m not one of them. For the first three and a half weeks I had a constant head ache as I would drive to the local town to catch the bus to work (while my partner took my fuel efficient car to work). Driving in the morning resulted in sweaty palms and tense muscles (hence the head ache). Now I am slightly more relaxed and the head aches have passed but I am still very nervous and do not enjoy the responsibility.

Cars cost a lot; The little car I bought is twenty years old and had never been out of town. It must have been a surprise to have to go back to work in the retirement years. So far the shock absorbers (which were original) and two tires have had to be replaced. This is an expensive exercise. Having two cars also means we have two registrations, two insurances and more fuel. All so I can get to work, where I will need to earn more and work longer hours to afford the car that gets me to work (small pointless circles).

Partner/driving instructor; While my partner is a very patient man (well…he would have to be wouldn’t he), he has some major flaws as a driving instructor. Firstly there is his non-verbal nature; he doesn’t instruct much and uses body language instead, for example he indicates my closeness to the outside edge of the road by lifting his left leg slightly and leaning towards me. This has obvious disadvantages; I can’t always be aware of his body language and piloting the car at the same time.

Secondly, he has a habit of fiddling with the buttons on my side of the car. It is very disconcerting to have the windscreen wipers flicked on while you are driving or the overdrive button pressed unexpectedly. I have now confined his area of influence to the stereo and the air conditioning while I am driving.

Thirdly, the car has become a cold war between us. Kev’ likes my little car, it’s good to drive, fuel efficient and reliable (mostly) so he wants to drive it all the time. His car is at the car hospital with undiagnosed pains in the fuel system and has been there for two months. Kev’ shows no signs of picking it up any time soon. His work gear takes up the back seat of my car and the multitude of tools in the back is growing. He is staking his territory. To counteract this I have installed a square, dangly car scent that is so feminine it even smells pink, put on CWA and Wiccan bumper stickers and left the fairy sticker and little horns on the logo that the car came with. I am thinking of naming the car Io as my daughter says it should have a cow’s name (being a Toyota) and suggested either Hathor or Daisy. Io is a much better choice as she was a Greek girl who found herself unexpectedly turned into a demi god and she traveled a lot.

I am glad to be learning a new skill, even one that I don’t enjoy. I do wish that it wasn’t a requirement of my working life though.

Living without the car addiction

I don’t own a car, not having a licence it makes perfect sense. My partner has a car for work and he occasionally gives me a lift somewhere, but mostly I take the school bus or arrange a lift with friends. Over the years this has led to many comments;
“I thought you were an independent woman”
“But you don’t have any freedom”
“How do you get anywhere, it must cost you a fortune”
“What will you do if something happens and you need a car?”

In answer to these comments I usually answer that I am independent and free as I go where I want or need to and don’t require a car to do it. It costs me very little to take a bus and if I catch a lift I try to offer some fuel money (and a hearty thanks). I don’t have the added cost of keeping another car for the odd times it might be handy, not that we could afford to have a second car anyway. If an emergency arises, I call someone for help, but if there were no other choice I would drive any nearby car to get help (don’t drive doesn’t mean can’t drive).

My reasons for not driving are many, but the main one is that I am not a good driver, in fact I am a dangerous driver, In the past I have tried to learn to drive; my first experience involved a tractor, my father and an inconveniently placed building, after the convergence of these three things (and myself as driver) it was unilaterally agreed that I probably should stick to horse riding. As an adult I have driven into gate posts, scraped the side on trees and fallen over the edge of the road (which was a spectacular achievement as I was travelling at about 50 km per hour). I lack spatial awareness (dyspraxia); the sense of knowing where your body is and what it is doing at any given time. I don’t have severe dyspraxia; just a mild case of clumsy, but this lack of awareness makes it hard for me to walk through doorways or beside people let alone drive a car. I am also easily distracted and likely to forget who is in charge of the car and become fascinated with things on the road side or the conversation going on in the car (although this does tend to cease as the car veers towards oncoming traffic). These things have led me to decide that the death toll on our local roads will be lower if I take the bus.

By not driving I am doing my part to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint. In 2010 41.7 Mt of carbon were released in Australia due to road transport, mostly passenger cars; by not driving a car and minimising my travel I am helping to reduce the effects of climate change (in a very small way). It also frees up a lot of my ‘brain space’ for thinking about other things as I am not comparing my car to others, worrying about what that clunking noise is or searching for fuel money. I am happy to be car-less and fancy free. There will probably come a time when I need to have my own transport as the school bus doesn’t run early enough for school teachers, when that time comes I will probably get a bike.