I had just turned 18 and with money I have saved, I bought myself a fairly cheap car. It was a Volkswagen Golf but I cannot remember what the make of the car was. However, once I had bought the car, I was not yet allowed to drive in it, because I had no idea at all how to do it. I still went to uni on my scooter and in the evenings and weekends, my mom took me to the parking spot at a nearby supermarket complex, where she taught me to drive.
I was a natural, if I may say so myself. No, seriously. I absolutely loved driving and I learned it fairly fast. My mom had always been a good driver too and her ability to teach me the skill was perfect. Within two months I was ready for my driver’s exam. We set a date and on the day of the exam I drove. By then I already had my learner’s license and was allowed to drive if I had someone with a driver’s license next to me, in this case, my mom.
At the examination center I had to fill in a couple of forms before I was allowed to take the exam. Mom waited in the waiting room when they called me. First I had to do the slope test on the grounds of the examination center. I did it without the car moving backwards one millimeter. I seem to remember that there were a couple of other tests I had to do on their grounds before the examiner told me it was time to drive into town. When we drove off the grounds he asked me about the baby chair in the back of the car.
“Is that for your baby sister?”
“No,” I laughed, “it’s for my daughter.”
He had seen my identification documents and knew I had turned eighteen just two months before.
“How old is she?”
Because of his questions I told him about my teenage pregnancy, about the fact that my father wanted me to have an abortion and how I refused; how I have decided that no matter what, I will raise my child myself. In between me telling he gave me directions on when to turn right or left and before I knew, we were back at the examination center. He told me to park and it was only when I switched the car off that I realized that I had never even been nervous during the drive.
“You are an excellent driver,” he said, “and you have passed with flying colors.”
For years after we joked that he only let me pass because I had been talking so much and he didn’t want to see me back again!
At the end of 1994 I emigrated to the Netherlands. Back in South Africa we drove on the left side of the road, but here in Europe they drive on the right. I thought I would never ever drive here, because how in the world would I ever manage to drive on the WRONG side of the road, let alone sit on the WRONG side of the car?
Fast forward seven months into me being in the Netherlands, and by then I was totally DONE with going to work on a scooter on cold winter nights. I worked shifts then and especially the winter nights totally got to me. I hated the cold! The only way to be able to drive a car was to take driving lessons. I had an international driver’s license which was valid for another couple of months, and it allowed me to do an accelerated examination for a Dutch driver’s license. But, before I could do it, I had to have a couple of lessons.
The first time I got into a car with a left hand drive, I banged my left hand on the door handle a couple of times when I wanted to shift gears. My bruised knuckled quickly taught me that I had to use my right hand to change to the next gear. It felt strange to drive on the right side of the road and what was really strange was go the WRONG side around a roundabout. I think this was the one thing I had to do a couple of times to really get used to, but other than that, the driving went well.
I had three driving lessons when I told the driving instructor I want him to arrange an driver’s exam for me. He wasn’t happy with this, as he wanted me to take a couple of lessons more, but I insisted. I did my driver’s exam in Vught, a place I had never been to before. My driving instructor sat in the back and the examiner in the front next to me, instructing me where to drive. He – the examiner – was immensely interested in my accent, wanted to know where I come from and how much difference there was to driving in South Africa to driving in the Netherlands.
I noticed one or two mistakes I made and was damn sure that I was going to fail the exam, but when we got back to the examination center the examiner said: “You have passed. You have to use your mirrors more, but it is clear you are aware of the traffic around you and you are a safe driver.”
On the way back home the driving instructor drove. He was not happy with the fact that I had passed and made no secret of this. He told me that I didn’t use my mirrors a lot, but I knew this wasn’t true. I didn’t – and still don’t – turn my head in the exaggerated way they want you to, but I do use my mirrors by turning my eyes. Back in the army I have learned to always know what is going on in front and behind you, so I always have a full view of the traffic and anticipate on movements from others. That is what my mom taught me when I was eighteen: don’t think only for yourself, but also for the other drivers on the road. I still do this – every day!
In the 33 years since I passed my first driver’s exam, I haven’t had one accident. Yes, a couple of near-accidents – some because of an error on my side, but not all of them – but no accidents. I drive to work and home four days a week and frequently drive in very busy traffic. Back when I just came to the Netherlands I swore I would never drive in any city center because of the narrow streets, but I can tell you, I do. I have driven in very narrow streets without hesitation and I still consider myself a good driver. My previous car – a special edition Toyota Corolla, which is now the property of my oldest daughter – I knew from front to back and could maneuver into the tightest spots. I now have mom’s car, a Toyota Auris, and I still have to get used to the luxury of it, but mostly to the fact that I cannot see the nose. It might take me another year or so, but eventually I will know this car just as well as the previous one.
I love driving, I love my car.
And yes, with the driver’s exams I passed, I suppose I can drive in any country in the world!
© Rebel’s Notes
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The A to Z Blogging Challenge
The Letter V
In this fifth year of participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I am taking words from my regular post starting with the letter of the day, and looking at the meaning of those words. Today is for words starting with ‘V’ and I have chosen to look at ‘valid’, ‘very’ & ‘view’.
Something that has the sound of being based on logic or fact, or is reasonable or cogent, is valid. Something is also valid when it’s legally acceptable.
This is a word that is used to place emphasis, mostly on the word that follows. In writing we try to avoid this word, in favor of other, stronger words.
The view of something is the the ability to see something or to be seen from a particular place. It’s also used to describe an opinion of something, for example: “My view on this subject is…”
© Rebel’s Notes