Maya Angelou said you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle these three things; a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’d have to add a fourth: Failing your driving test.
I couldn’t wait to drive. At 18 I didn’t care about the test, just the ability to drive. I wanted my own car so badly; I bought my first Micra with my student’s loan. Back then the only person who had a car in our clique was Alex, a red Nissan which he named Betsy- don’t ask.
My brown Micra was faithful, and I loved it. The plan was to practice until I was ready for my driving test. I had been driving for a few months when I did my first test. It was in Colindale, I can’t remember what the major fault was but I failed woefully. I remember crying and taking it so personally, and later basking in the words of comfort my dear cousins offered as they assured me that those driving instructors were wicked people. That they had a quota to fill and once they had reached their number, no one else passed. So I figured it would be best to take the next test in January, way before their “limit” was reached. Only heaven knows where I got the information that their quota fiscal year started in January.
Come January and I booked my test in Burnt Oak. Not far from that hateful Colindale where they chose to “fail me” on my first test. By this time I was not just a driver but had become Speedy Gonzales. I loved to do mean manoeuvres and was very confident behind the wheel. I was warned by well wishers not to use my car for the test as the instructor would fail me on the presumption that I had been driving without a licence. So I hired a new Micra for the test. Now in the UK most cars (at least in the ’90s) were manual (stick) cars. In order to move you need to find the bite point. This bite point differs for each car. I also had become friends with a group of guys who loved to bend every rule for the sake of it and one of them thought me how to avoid the whole bite point shenanigans by putting the car in 1st gear, and then starting the engine to avoid stalling. It worked always. And no, I didn’t have the sense to leave that lesson out of my driving test so I failed again. I actually failed as I was driving out of the test center. But the man kept quiet and still kept instructing me to turn left, turn right. Can you imagine? I turned to him and said
“What’s the point?”
“I have failed. I see a big X on the paper, what’s the point in carrying on?”
“I am not at liberty to discuss this madam”
“In that case, (I pulled over) please get out of my car.”
“By law, I cannot leave you with the car, I must accompany you back to the test centre if you do not wish to carry on with your test”. He looked and sounded like a robot.
I protested, but he won, allowing me the final humiliation of being the first candidate to arrive back at the centre with a yellow slip. He tried to give me advice as we drove in but I waved him off, puleeze, just get out, thank you!
Thankfully my fans were waiting. Phone calls came in assuring me that it wasn’t my fault. That Burnt Oak centre was notoriously racist. That it was in fact my fault for not asking them first as they would have told me to stay well away from there.
So test number 3 was held somewhere in South London. The instructor was Scottish. I feigned excitement and asked what part of Scotland he was from. He mentioned an obscure village I’d never even heard of. My response was even more enthusiastic as I shared that I was in fact born in Edinburgh. I did a quick mental scan of my birth certificate and recollected my parents address at the time. “We lived in Currie”, I offered. Like I even had any memories of the place. I don’t think it was my Scottish roots that made me pass. Rather I think I had finally faced the fact that I wasn’t a perfect driver. Being an avid go-karter and a fearless driver on the streets of London did not qualify me to pass the UK driving test.
I have since learned to deal with disappointments a lot better. I see every disappointment as a tool used to mature and strengthen me. I also have more respect for laws. “It’s the law“, doesn’t annoy me so much anymore!
Thanks for reading, do come back.