A bit of a mind splurge/really roundabout argument in my head, trying to figure out what it is about driving that I have a such a mind block about, and why I feel so freaked about trying.
Firstly I need to remind myself that actually I CAN drive. I have a valid license from home, for which I took at least a half way decent test (my friends who failed their early attempts would concur!). But it’s true that I haven’t driven at all since last summer, and even in the years before that I haven’t driven a car that much, mostly because of the lack of necessity and lack of easy access to a car. So it’s not unexpected/a weakness/failure either that I should need some refresher lessons now.
I love my bike (50cc, which I drive at home, not UK). I love my bicycle. So it’s not the roads or travelling in general that I have a problem with.
I haven’t a clue what the chances of dying are as a driver in a bike or bicycle accident compared to a car accident. But I’d put a lot of money down that it’s a toss up between bikes and bicycles. So that would mean I should prefer driving a car, right? Wrong! What rings in my ears is my bike instructors words (from when I was 15): “When you ride a bike, you’re the one who’s going to be killed. When you drive a car, you’re the one who’s going to kill someone else”. I don’t think I’m strange in concluding I’d rather be the one to die that to find I’ve killed someone else.
You can be the best driver in the world, but if a maniac driver comes swinging round the corner on your side of the road at twice the speed limit, my guess is that in a car your life flashes before your eyes, as well as for the pedestrian who stands perilously close to you on the pavement. On a bike however, you can easily swerve and slip along the edge of the road. Accepting that it’s impossible to trust that everyone will be a sensible driver, or even trust that they won’t make an honest mistake of hitting the wrong pedal, being a smaller target and one that is nimble (bike) makes me far less scared than sitting like a turkey squat in the road (car). Likewise if I were the one making a mistake, I’d rather do it on a bike where others can avoid me and I’m the only one to be hurt, than in a car where I mow someone else down like a tractor.
Learning to drive
All of those things though are things I knew before learning to drive a car. Yet I was still keen to learn to drive as soon as I could (the summer after I turned 18, the age you can drive where I’m from). So something about my attitude to driving changed after I first began learning.
I found learning to drive quite humiliating. I seemed to be the only one of my friends who hadn’t driven before, so I felt like a I was starting from several bases back. Also, because my parents have a manual car, that was what I learnt with. My friends, on the other hand, all learnt on automatic cars, so they were out and about learning the ‘feel’ of roads and traffic while I was still getting to grips with just trying to get the car to move, without conking out!
I like to think I’ve got over that embarrassment. I’d like to think I don’t suffer embarrassment. However I guess I do, and I think it made what I’d looked forward to a disappointment, and I never found that ‘fun’ again in it. It’s always felt a bit of a chore ever since.
My bicycle has gears. I can deal with them, they make sense, I use them and am grateful for them. On the other hand, my bike is automatic and I just rev the engine and go. I love that too! So why am I intent on wanting to drive a car everywhere in third gear? Maybe because it’s obvious to me that a bicycle will need its gears changed, so I’m happy to do that. I choose a gear as often depending on the road as how I’m feeling (low gears going up hills = the road, low gears when I’m tired and want least resistance = me). But a car? If my bike is smart enough to know what gear to change to, and can do it, then surely a car can too?! I do accept though that automatic cars can be hopeless (once driving up a hill with my foot all the way down on the gas and the car only barely pootling up). But if a geared car can get pretty much everywhere in third gear, then can I be happy with that? I would be if it didn’t seem a waste of the other gears and have my mother muttering (in real life or in my mind) that I should be changing up or down. Ah my mother.
Another biggie: my parents went halves with me on my bike as a 16th birthday present to me, so I it cost me $1,500. I’d been saving for it for years and it was by far the biggest single cost I’d ever paid out. Yet even the full price of $3,000 pales in comparison to anything resembling a functioning car.
My bicycle’s chain snapped and slashed the back tire as it flipped off. Replaced all of that + got a new cog for the gears = less than 40pounds. Punctured the front tire and could have fixed that for 79p courtesy of Wilkensons, though for the luxury of 10pounds I took it to the bike shop to be fixed for me. It would make me cry to see the minimum charge at a car fix-it shop
And gas. Petrol. To make it fair I won’t compare my bicycle to a car. But my bike, I’ve never fit in more than $10 of petrol, and that lasts me about a week to 10 days. I’ve never made a direct comparison but my parents’ car tank can hold $50-$60 gas and they always seem to need to fill up.
Responsibility of a car
When I learnt to drive, I was at home where you’re only allowed one car per household, so owning my own car didn’t really factor into the equation: the only option was to use my parents car. However now that I’m away from home, driving a car would more or less mean that I own a car. Aaarrgghhh !
Seriously I wouldn’t have a clue what to do if something went wrong with it! I know people talk about calling out the RAC or AA, but how do you do that? Presumably you need to have a contract with them, or that scary word: insurance!! Double aaahhh ‘Compare the Market.com’ ads have put me off ever trying to buy car insurance (no matter how cute the meerkats are!). And then there’s licences. I now have a provisional license as well as my home country licence. But I think you need one for your car as well? What about tax disks? I’ve heard that term but haven’t a clue what that is or what they’re for or where you get them from….and ‘tax’ = scary thing I’d rather just chuck money at and hope it goes away than deal with it. But at the same time don’t want to do that either! All in all I think I could just about cope with having an illegal car and keeping it til something went wrong with it and then dump it at the side of the road. But I don’t want to do that either, so maybe the simplest thing is just to not bother and keep going on my bicycle?
Accepting that I should try driving a manual car, because automatic cars don’t have artificial intelligence so their gear systems are perfect, and besides they’re more expensive to buy and hire, and if I only drive an automatic then I’ll be stuck if I did have to drive a manual in an emergency, there are still so many things to think about all at the same time. The AA have all sorts of acronyms that are seriously doing my head in. Even when I think through what I should do, in what order, it then turns out there were things I was meant to be doing at the same time, or by the time I’ve thought it through there was something else I should have done by then. My instructor encourages me that it’s ok to make mistakes. But I’m not sure it is! Sure when I’m with him he has brakes and clutches so probably we won’t come to much harm, but the whole point of learning is to drive alone! I may be feeling a bit feeble in myself generally, but I have had 26+ years of experience of myself to know that I’m not very good at doing two things at once! And then it comes back to the same problem: that making a mistake while driving can kill, and I don’t want to do that!
I should wear glasses, I have two pairs of glasses even. But I hate wearing them, I hate having anything between me and the world. I hate feeling distant from it (I get that feeling easily enough even without an additional layer between me and it). I’m the only person I know who prefers bugs and grit in my eyes to putting a visor on my bike helmet or wearing sunglasses. Most of the time I can get away with not wearing glasses, only when I’m in lectures (hooray for no longer being a student!) and when I’m driving (dun dunn dunnn). Having to wear glasses and sit in front of a car windscreen really makes me feel like I’m in cotton wool, and I can’t hear things properly either. I’m not sure how to get around that one.
‘Well then I won’t drive’
There are a whole host of other reasons I could come up with for why I don’t like driving. But basically I think it comes down to the problem that it is too hard to ignore how often my automatic response to car related problem is ‘Well then I won’t drive’:
Vehicle/repairs/gas is expensive? ‘Well then I won’t drive’.
What if that car side swipes you and pushes you over the embankment? ‘Well then I won’t drive’.
You need licenses/insurance/tax disks? ‘Well then I won’t drive’.
You need to be able to work the gas and break pedals/work the clutch and change gears/check mirrors/indicate/watch out for pedestrians/watch the speed limit/read sign directions ALL AT THE SAME TIME? ‘Well then I won’t drive’.
Cars (drivers) kill people? ‘Well then I won’t drive’.
Well then I won’t drive.
EXCEPT I THINK I DO NEED TO DRIVE
I’m back to my original problem of trying to take refresher driving lessons so I can feel comfortable driving and pass my British driving test before September 2012, when I have to give up my home licence because of living permanently in the UK for 1 year, but not feeling comfortable doing it. I’m wanting to drive again because it is apparently socially expected to be able to drive and to have a car, and the other part is that my job is putting pressure on me to drive, mostly to be able to make site visits and surveys. In my interview I assured them, truthfully, that essentially yes I can drive (which, according to my licence is true), but that I don’t have a car. They’ve now offered to pay the cost of the rental car for when they really need me to drive. I’m running out of excuses, and as I don’t feel comfortable jumping in a car and zooming off, I feel I now need to learn to drive (again).
I think I need to come up with a longer list of reasons why I should drive to overcome the response ‘Well then I won’t drive’. I’m also desperately trying hard not to come to the conclusions, ‘Well then I’ll just quit my job’ , because that’ll really open a whole ‘nother can of worms!
I’m trying to remind myself it will be a good thing to have a British driving license after September, so that if I did need to drive, for work, in an emergency or some other unforeseen event (heaven forbid I might actually persuade myself to buy a car and deal with all its
problems issues), I could. So I should get my licence now, accept it might be difficult and not enjoyable, but at least not have to worry about it afterwards, and so be it if I never actually drive again.
For now maybe I should write out my list of concerns so I have an answer to give my instructor when he asks why I seem so nervous. At the moment I just say ‘I don’t know. This is just normal’, which doesn’t help me or him much. But I don’t want to feel like I’m plonking him down in a therapist chair either!