I am now, at 26 years old (yes please direct your shame-wagging finger in my direction) learning to drive. My official excuse is I don’t drive because I am an environmental crusader, preferring to use my god given gift of legs rather than a gas-guzzling-global-warming-causing car. This is part of it. Not driving renders my ecological footprint quite impressive. I like to whip it out at parties and let people ooh and aaahh about how awesome and aware I am. This, unfortunately , is only part of the reason.
The unofficial and much less publicised reason is I’m absolutely terrified. It’s not so much the driving but the other cars filled with fist-waving jerks that concern me. When the road is empty I glide along seamlessly switching gears like the Stig on Top Gear. However, as soon as I am surrounded by other motorists something happens to my brain. Suddenly driving DOES NOT COMPUTE. Clutch.. brake..which one? .. which gear? ..I thought I was in second.. aahh …help..bunny hop.. rev..PANIC..stall..
I used to think the purpose of L plates was so other drivers knew to go easy on you. L for lenient. This is a lie. The purpose of L plates is to publicly humiliate new drivers. It lets the other drivers on the road know to laugh, jeer, beep and manically speed up and overtake you in a dangerous manner. One guy beeped me because of a two second delay in taking off at the lights.
What is it about human nature that makes once pleasant people turn into jerks upon entering a vehicle? You would never behave like that without one. Can you imagine yelling “FUCK YOU STUPID OLD BAG GET OUT OF MY WAY” at a slow old lady who walked in front of you on the street? I think not. Being at the helm of a big hunk of metal with wheels does something to our brains which eliminates all human decency and that is why I’m afraid of driving.
Perhaps this is why my instructor was such a ‘character’. Here’s something I think all middle aged men need to know. Jokes involving sexual innuendo do not ingratiate you to young women. It does not make you seem young and hip. It makes you seem like a dirty old man.
When I asked driving related questions he would respond with comments like ‘whatever turns you on’ or ‘whatever gets you off’. Hmmmm. He called the point where the clutch and accelerator engage the ‘rubbing point’ which resulted in chants of ‘rub rub rub’, anytime we went around corners or took off at the lights. He also bestowed upon me the nickname ‘bub’ and its various manifestations ‘bubby’, ‘bubba’etc. This would be weird from someone I know well, let alone a driving instructor I had known for all of thirty minutes.
I know what you’re thinking. “I would never stand for that. If someone called me bubba and made seedy jokes I’d be all like ‘Step off man, put your manners back in your pocket’”. You’d think that wouldn’t you? But I didn’t. I just laughed. Granted there wasn’t much conviction to the laugh but I laughed all the same. And why did I laugh? Because the only thing that scares me more than driving is the awkward silence that follows a non-laughed-at joke from a stranger. By not laughing you are basically telling the other person you are offended and unimpressed. I would laugh at a joke about my dead grandmother before I would sit through one of those awkward silences. I suddenly realised that this was the reason people like that existed. They keep making their seedy, sexist, racist jokes quite comfortably without any awareness of how offensive they are because people always laugh!
I wish there was some way I could just say “I am neither amused nor offended. Let’s move on.” In fact I think I am going to put that onto a T-shirt.
After white-knuckling it through three manual lessons with him I decided to be a giant piker and go for my automatic license instead. I asked my instructor if he could recommend a good auto instructor in my area.
“Just don’t go with ****** Driving School. It’s full of blacks” he said.
“Ok then, thanks.” I said smiling sweetly and got out of the car.
Next time I’ll say something. Next time…