Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Have Passed Test - Now Will Someone Please Teach Me to Drive!?!

So about a week and a half ago, while I was skipping back and forth within my timeline, I passed my driving test. Woo hoo! I did pretty well. First attempt and I only got four minors (four measly minors). So I've been feeling pretty good as you might imagine. Having passed my test, my job (specifically the travelling from school to school bit) is going to be one heck of a lot easier. I won't have to rely on friends, family and colleagues to cart me around the place. I am now one step closer to independence. All I need now is a car. I have passed my test and all is well.

There's one slight problem though.

It turns out that I can't actually drive.

On Monday, I was at Straight Ahead (North East London Divisional Youth Chorus to all you salvos (some choir to everyone else)) practice in Romford. The deal was that I would make my way there with Paul Leverett (the awesome bassist of the cutting edge and convention defying band Electralyte to all you Christian rock band enthusiasts (some bloke that plays bass to everyone else)) and then I'd get to drive back. Excellent. It might seem pretty trivial to all you drivers but I'd never done that trip before and I was pretty excited about it. After the practice had finished, a small group of us decided to get something to eat and Christina and I were sent out to reserve the table. She said I could drive. Yesss.

I was eager to get out fairly soon as I didn't want an audience watching me ready to make their judgments on my newly recognised driving skills. So Christina and I left as soon as we could and got in the car. The car was facing the fence, next to Paul's (you remember - the bassist) car and needed a simple reverse maneuver to slide out and get out of the carpark. Easy right?


I thought so too.

I got in the car, positioned the chair, did all the safety and mirror checks and started the engine. So far, so good. Just as I was getting ready to move, another car was coming towards us from my right. I'd let them go. Nope. They were going to let me go. Ok. I had a bit of an audience now but that's ok. They could watch. Let them see how someone who only got four minors in their driving test does it. Christina was next to me to support me and see me through the process. She knew from experience that reversing was not yet my forte. But that's ok. This was going to be different. I now knew the key to reversing was to always remember to look out the back window and not to try and maneuver backwards with the solitary visual aid of my rearview mirror. As long as I did this and as long as I took it nice and slowly, I was going to be fine. I would just reverse out and be on my way. So I checked all my mirrors again, shifted in my seat, made sure I had a clear view of the back window and slowly lifted my foot off the clutch.

We lurched forward.

Apparently another key to reversing is to put the car into reverse. Who'd have thought?

Ok, so I'd made a bit of a mistake and the car that was waiting for me had seen it. But that was fine. Everyone does it at some point. So I laughed it off, put the car into reverse and tried again. By this point, a few people were starting to leave the hall and enter the carpark. My audience was expanding. Ok, so here we go again. Mirrors, shift, back window, car definitely in reverse, foot off clutch. Flippin' yesssss. We were going backwards. I'd have celebrated even more had I known that this was pretty much as good as it was going to get. Keeping my eyes carefully fixed behind me, I started to turn the car. This was going well. I was nowhere near the wall. I could make a smooth turn out and leave everyone feeling suitably impressed.


I stopped. Apparently, despite my back end being very deliberately and carefully clear of any obstacles, my front end was worryingly close to Paul's car. Christina gently warned me that I was little close (the "STOP!!!" didn't come from Christina by the way. She is, without doubt, the best person to be in the car with when you're a new driver. I'm not sure where the "STOP!!!" came from). Paul, who had by this point joined the audience and was now quite keen, for obvious reasons, to take more of an active role in the proceedings, asked (surprisingly graciously) if it would be at all possible for me to position the car so that it wasn't actually touching his before I continued to swing into his back door. "No worries" Christina reassured me, "we'll just go forward a bit and get into a better position". So I went forward a bit. But I certainly did not feel in any way that I was in a better position. I was at a really odd angle, lodged somewhere between the fence and Paul's car. Reversing would send me back into the car. Foward and I'm in a fence. Christina suggested that I reverse the other way into an emptier part of the carpark and attempt to turn round there.

"You don't want to do that mate" Jon Mitson, suddenly appearing at my window, told me I had to reverse and then swing right. So I tried that. Great. Except now I was at the other end of Paul's car inbetween that and a brick wall. Brilliant. I reversed a bit but I was too close to the wall. I pulled forward a bit but I was too close to Paul's car. I reversed a bit, trying to go right. I went forward a bit, trying to go left. Back and right. Forward and left. Back. Forward. This is not going well. The audience I was so keen to avoid had grown to accomodate most members of the Salvation Army within the UK. Thousands of people were eagerly watching me as I Austin Powered my way out of the car park. Forward. Left. Back. Right. Everyone's watching. Oh crap. I'm starting to panic. Stop watching. Forward and left. Back and... yup! It's happened. I've forgotten which way I need to steer to go in the directon I want to go. I want to go that way. Is that left? Man, I can't even remember which way that way is. What if I turn the steering wheel this way? Nope. Going in the wrong direction. I'll try turning it the other way. HOW AM I STILL GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!!!?! A commitee has now formed to discuss ways of getting me out of the car park. "Turn the wheel all the way round", "No - the other way", "Go forward", "Go back", "You're good, now you can go forward", "No don't you'll hit the car". STOP HELPING!!! Christina takes the steering wheel and does some weird kind of magic with it. Good, we're going in the right direction. Christina can steer. I'll just go back and forward. Back. Forward. Back. No that's forward again. The "Get the Moron Out of the Stinkin' Car Park" committee have now given up all hope of ever getting home and form a sub-committee to set up tents. Forward. Back. Forback. What?! Argh!!

So eventually I make a smooth turn out and leave everyone feeling suitably impressed. We pass Matt White who looks like he could do with sitting down and counting to ten before talking to me next (did I mention that it was his car?). So Christina and I get to Nando's but were too late to book a table so we all had to eat at Frankie and Benny's instead.

As we left and headed toward the car, I held the car key out to Matt in such a way so as to communicate that I didn't feel I deserved to drive the car home as had previously been agreed. I knew I'd have to insist despite all the pep talk the group would give me about getting back on the horse. I knew I would have to answer the concerned questions of "are you sure you don't want to give it a try?" by looking down at my feet and nodding my head humbly.

Well none of these things were spoken but I'm sure we were all thinking it as Matt quickly grabbed the key from my open palm and hopped in the driver's seat.

Hmm. Might be a bit too soon to start up my own chauffeuring business.


Christina said...'re a really great driver and I feel utterly confident being next to you when we're going forwards. The going backwards bit will come soon enough! I hope you aapreciated us all trying to make you feel better by reeling off all our car accidents to you on the way home x

Sarah said...

romford army carpark is a horrible place to park when youve just passed... the spaces arent equal and the lines are really faint. when i park there i always get in two spaces simply so its easier to get out!! dont feel so bad!!

Kirst said...

Hey, I was about to say the same thing! Sarah, I have just spoken to you about the whole 'people nicking your blog' thing, now you're nicking my comments!

Romford car park is rubbish. It took me ages to learn how to park in there. I always reverse in rather than out as there always seems to be fewer cars around when I arrive than when I leave!

Try parking between the posts. You can get well and truly stuck there!

Graeme said...

We all have stories to tell about the first time we drove after passing our test - Hmmm, wonder if anyone can beat running over your mum??? No?? I win then!!!

Andy said...

Not my own to claim but my mate, TV's Richard Nosworthy, contrived to have an accident within hours of passing his test. So good was this accident that he managed to write off his Dad's car, the other car, and get 5 points for dangerous driving!

I've no story of my own but that's 'cos it took me just over a year and 4 attempts to pass. Could tell you the one in which I nearly ran over a woman in my third test. Unsurprisingly I got a 'D' for dangerous driving. Would have been more dangerous had I actually continued and run her over (well, she ran out in front of me...).

Matt L said...

I feel that someone should balance this up a bit. Everyone's cooing 'ooo, Glyn, you're a really good driver', and 'ooo, Glyn, Romford Carpark is awful'. Well I think you suck!!! HA HA HAAAA! There I've said it!!! You SUCK AT DRIVING!!! HA HAAA HAAAAAAA! Reverse your way out of that one buddy!

Glyn Harries said...

And in fairness, Matt did actually see it which gives his opinion some extra clout.

And yes Christina I did appreciate the early driving stories from everyone else on the way home. As nasty as Matt Leeder likes to pretend he is, he did encourage me with some of his own stories of caravan crashes when he was new - the big softy.