Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Don't bother me, I'm practising

It dawned on me today that I’ve lost my edge. Not a huge rockfall or anything, more a barely perceptible crumbling around the cliff-face.

I was driving Mr6 to school this morning and I realised that I’m hesitating too long. Waiting for an unfeasibly large gap. Taking a deep breath as I cross intersections. Flinching when a car approaches too fast from the right.

After my little accident a few weeks ago, I got straight back on the horse. So to speak. In the hire car as soon as I could turn my neck enough to see. It hurt, but what else could I do?

I’ve never loved driving. I didn’t get my licence until I was 25 (late for Australia, where distances can be huge and a car represents freedom). I was a year younger than everyone in my year at school and they never seemed to mind driving me around. I particularly adored my friend W’s Fiat Bambino, bright red, with a striped sunroof. Like a Noddy car. We’d often leave the pub (orange juice, mum) and find it ‘parked’ on the footpath, courtesy of the local Hilarious People.

But I never wanted one.

When I moved to the Big Smoke, hotfooting it out of Fibrotown as soon as I was able, I relocated in the inner city and took to walking, buses and loafing about with gusto. It wasn’t until I went overseas for a few years and came back to Australia that I got up enough chutzpah to brave the city traffic. Ten lessons. Job done.

Then I didn’t drive. For years and years and years. I lived close to everything. I didn’t need to. Truth be told, I didn’t want to. And as the years went past, my dislike turned phobic.

I’d look with utter envy at people who just hopped in a car and drove off. I wanted to be one. When I got pregnant with Mr6, I realised I had to become one. By now I was living in the World’s Most Unwieldy Suburb. Close to town, but somehow so huge that it took ages just to walk across it. I needed to drive. I needed to be able to get my baby around. I needed to be able to visit my friends without the need for three buses and a packed lunch.

So, thanks to the unbelievable patience of my beautiful friend A-around-the-corner, who sat through untold hours of bunny hops and minor scares (“We take off at intersections with alacrity Allison, we do not dribble into them”), and a few lessons from Danny the driving instructor who specialised in Nervous Nellies (“You’re one of them, act like it”), I got to the point where I could get in the car and drive without shaking. Where the idea of driving home didn’t ruin every good night out I should have had.

My sister C laughed about how I was still ‘practising’ driving 10 years after I got my licence. “Don’t you just get to the point where it’s not practice anymore, it’s just driving?” she wondered aloud.

And one day I did. I even started to, on occasion, enjoy it.

I’m not back in my box, by any means. But I’m more cautious. To the point where I’m fitting right in around Fibrotown where the average driving age is 60+ and the average speed is about 40km/hour.

I’m sure it will come back. That edge, I mean. But for now, I feel like I’m back to practising. Just a bit.


  1. Oh you poooor thing. I loved having my license and thought I had it down pat until I moved to Paris. Then didn't need a car. And didn't drive for 9 years except for the 3 times I came home to Aussie. Oh - and the 3 times I drove on the freeway at night, shaking and sweating uncontrollably while passing trucks at 130km hour so my husband could get some sleep during the 12 hour drive to his parents.
    Then I moved to Toulouse and HAD to drive - on the right. In my own car. I tried every excuse not to. But the kids' school was 8 k away and ...too far to walk.
    5 Year's later I'm wondering if I can still drive on the left... You will most likely see me shaking at home now.
    Hang in there...

  2. Al, it is most unfortunate then that the car accident happened to you. Great to hear you are back on the horse.

  3. I am not suprised, after an accident.

    It took me 8 attempts in two countries to get my licence. I feel your anxieties.....the Captivator has never captivated me....

  4. I don't really feel I should comment on this one. Being a massive driving phobic with full blown panic attacks on waiting list for CBT. But I'm so glad you have got back in the saddle so to speak and are driving again.

    Your paragraph 'I'd look with utter envy...' that is me. In a nutshell. Do you know me?

    I'm glad you conquered it.

  5. I think I am at age 42 (yes young i know) becoming one of those drivers who prefers to drive at a nice sedate pace.... My son who is on his P's hates being in the car with me.. "muuuuuum the speed limit is 50 not 40"... my reply "yes Josh the maximum speed you are allowed to go is 50.... however, there is no law to say that you cannot travel at a lesser pace if you so wish" And I wish to travel at my leisurely pace very often.... it saves on petrol and allows me to sing along to more of my favourite songs (80's Aussie rock being the best!!!!) on the radio, usually with the radio up and the window down.... the benefit of this is that teenage daughters are embarrassed. So in one short trip I can embarrass my son by being seen to drive at a ridiculously slow speed and can embarrass my daughters even more by being heard to sing..... life is good. Drive however slow you want I say!!!! Jo

  6. As a REALLY capable amateur psychologist I would say you've got a bit of post-traumatic shock kicking poor thing!!! I've only had one minor rear ender with kids in the car and it was dreadful, but nowhere near as traumatic! Take it easy and drive as slow as you want!

  7. I love the sound of your driving instructor! And I understand exactly where you are coming from. I was in the middle of a four car pile up several years ago and even now certain situations give me jitters.

  8. I reacted that same way after having a car accident. Believe me, it wears off. Just like the effect one gets after barfing: you don't want to eat that food you had right before throwing up, but eventually, you do eat pizza and green ice cream again. molly

  9. Good on you for driving again. It's awful after an accident for a good while.


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