Disclaimer: I apologise if you find this post too long. Still trying to kick my student impulses. I’d do better next time.
You ever seen Driving Miss Daisy, well, where do you think they got that story plot from? From me, that’s where – always being driven everywhere. As fun, as that was, I finally decided it was time to put my big girl pants on. I mean, in this day and age, who doesn’t know how to drive? For one thing, some job ads ask that you have a full licence for at least a year to apply. Or what if I was on holiday and needed to rent a car? Even if I don’t have a car (which I’m hoping is not the case), it just made sense to at least have a licence and start counting the years. So I finally came to my senses. Plus it kinda worked out that I had all the time to do this now. So anyways, for the past month, I’ve been learning to drive and getting ready to take the tests. And from my experience I have the following gems to share:
1. Mind over matter: Whenever I told anyone I was starting to learn, they’d ask me how I felt, and honestly, I felt soooo excited. I was looking forward to sitting behind the wheel and taming the beast that is a motor vehicle. Truthfully, I think the thing that holds you back from learning, is fear – fear of crashing or causing an accident or losing control. This leads me to my next point.
2. In my instructor I trust: Is there really any need to fear when you have a well-trained instructor sitting next to you? I mean he has his own brake on his side and it’s not like he’d let you crash, at least for the sake of self-preservation. You can always count on good old-fashioned self-preservation in these kinds of situations. So just follow his instructions and check your fears at the door and you’d do fine.
3. Learner – instructor relationship: If you’re like me and are remotely considered as a “meh *shrug* I’d tap that if I had to repopulate the planet” and have an opposite sex instructor you’d need to be smart. For me, I spent 2 hours (with a break in between) every other day with my instructor in a car where there wasn’t much to do but talk to avoid awkwardness. I had to keep reminding myself every session that I was just there to learn to drive not to find a new beau (honestly, it wasn’t much of a challenge for me but you may have a very hot instructor, my only advice, learn to drive first).
4. Dip your toes in the instructor pool: No shade to my instructor (can we just call him Mike?); he was the absolute best and I learned a great deal from him. But for one day, he was ill, so I got a different instructor and boy did that make such a difference. I had been struggling to master the art of starting the car without jerking and I swear Mike was just about getting ready to push me out of the moving car and face whatever came next till luckily (for the both of us) he got ill and I got this other instructor (let’s call him Nolan). Well in one hour, Nolan showed me a different way of starting and it was buh-bye jerk start.
5. Respect for the machine: Once you come to understand that driving is very serious business and not something to be taken lightly, then you’re one step to becoming a great driver. You have to respect the machine and you’d be able to control it. Never let the car control you.
6. Choice of cars: If given the choice between manual transmission and automatic to learn, my advice is to pick manual. Honestly, once you can drive manual, automatic is a breeze. I was lucky enough to learn on both and truthfully, there’s a big difference. In automatic, the car does everything for you, and all you literally do is steer and make sure you don’t drive into a ditch or something; whereas in manual, you’re responsible for every single thing the car does (and I can testify to the fact that there’s something satisfying about controlling the car yourself). I still want an automatic car though *wink*
7. Mix it up a little: One of the best things I feel I did during my experience was changing up my style in every session. Flat shoes here, high heels there, trainers, maxi dress today, jeans tomorrow, pencil skirt. What other time do you have to practice with this much confidence?
8. The most healthy attitude to ensure you have a safe return: Truer words have never been said than this, “Imagine every other driver is crazy and you’re the only sane one”. This was one of the first things Mike said to me the first day we got into the car. You always have to assume that every horrible thing that can go wrong will go wrong and be ready to act when it happens. And trust me where I learned, it was like all the drivers conspired to show me and other learner drivers the worst that can happen on the road. You just have to make sure you do everything that you’re supposed.WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT AND CHECK YOUR MIRRORS AND BLIND SPOTS AT ALL TIMES!!!
9. Tune out other drivers: How stupid (was that too mean? OK! Intellectually challenged…is that better) can people be? I don’t want to make this a geographical thing but how can I be driving in an obvious learner driver’s car (driving school logo and info posted all over the car with the L-shaped sticker on) and your honking persistently at me. Approaching me at high speed and blasting your horn. Or parked right on my bumper and honking when I make the conscious decision not to enter the obvious busy road cause I don’t want the other cars to blow me out of the park. Or trying to run me off the road. You lucky I’m trying to be a good person. All I do in those situations is just tune them out and remain calm and do what I’m trying to do. 9 out of 10 times, they’d get their lives and overtake me to do whatever they trying to do. Do drivers in other places do this too? Hope not. Only so much a girl can take.
10. Learn from experienced drivers: If you’re anything like me, you’d learn most of what you know from watching what other people do. Whenever I’m being driven, I ask questions. “Why are you doing that?” “What does that do?” What you must also watch out for are those bad habits. Make sure you’re not repeating them. Try as much as possible to do everything right even though you may look like a dork. Better to learn it right.
11. Practice makes perfect: The best way to perfect your new skills is to practice with a friend’s or family’s car when you get home. Find a quiet place with a lot of space to allow you to master those starts and stops. Practice your reversing and parking. Speaking of, I need to get my mum/dad to take me out this weekend to practice my parking. I think I got reversing on lock now.
12. My final advice is to try to book all your learning sessions in one block as much as possible.
Now, I know getting your licence is quite a big deal – at least it is for me. That’s me adulting right there. Being able to transport myself from point A to point B. Soooooo excited for that but I have to remind myself and you that WITH A LICENCE COMES NEW AND GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES. Responsibilities for not only my/yourself but also any passengers in my/your car and other road users. I take that very seriously and that’s why safety ALWAYS comes first.
Thanks for sticking through to the end. Wish me luck as I take my driver’s licence tests. I mean I feel like I already got it in the bag, but who knows?
What was your learning experience? And how has driving been treating you since you got your licence?