My son was studying for his learners licence and it got me thinking about the driving instructor I had all those years ago when I was in my twenties!
I think he must’ve been in his seventies. Or maybe he just looked that old after giving me driving lessons; I’m still not quite sure.
My first lesson went rather well. He was so impressed and said he was certain after three more lessons I’d get my driver’s licence.
I don’t know what happened the afternoon of my next lesson. I still blame it on all the cars on the road. It was peak-hour traffic. Besides, I’d had an awful day with my colicky son. My nerves were finished as I switched on the ignition. For some reason, he asked what religion I was. I told him I was a Catholic and he nodded. Although I thought I saw a glimmer of fear in his blue eyes. But I ignored him as in those days, some Afrikaners thought Catholics were ‘die Romse gevaar’!
The next two lessons went quite smoothly I thought. But then came my fourth and last ever lesson. And again all the while I was driving through Lansdowne, up to Claremont and then back towards Lansdowne, I imagined I was doing great, even though I took a corner at 70km/h, almost crashing into the police station on the corner of Burwood and Lansdowne Roads.
The poor driving instructor let out a wail that sounded like a woman in labour – he did…..I asked him what was wrong, but he couldn’t answer as he was too busy trying to get air from his asthma pump!
But the last straw for both him and me was the Saturday morning at the old Green Point Stadium parking lot.
He climbed out of the car and placed two plastic drums some ways behind and to the side of the car. He stood there, leaning on his walking stick and beckoned for me to reverse. Oh my word, I suddenly panicked, wondering which way to turn the wheel. I couldn’t figure that one out. And I told him so too.
‘Turn the wheel in the direction you want to go!’ he barked.
‘Why can’t I just see which way the car is pointing when i get out of this parking bay and then I will decide which way to go!’ I yelled back.
He banged his walking stick on the ground and screamed, ‘Reeee-verse!’
And so I did…With my foot flat out on the accelerator.
The poor man went flying one way, his walking stick the other way. For a minute I thought I killed him, but thankfully he was unharmed – only a little shaken.
I switched off the car and said that’s it – I’d changed my mind about driving. I’d rather walk or catch a train if I needed to go anywhere. And he agreed as we drove away in silence.
We pulled up at my house and my husband who was in the garden, strolled over to the car and asked the driving instructor, ‘So, is she ready for her licence?’
I didn’t even say goodbye to the man. I climbed out of the car and slammed the door, tossed my hair over my shoulder and uttered an angry ‘ga’ under my breath as I stomped up the path way.
I heard the words, ‘Sir, you don’t have to pay me for the lessons. I blame her neurosis on being a Catholic – they’re all like that! Catholic guilt or something!’
And yes, to this day I don’t drive. And I blame the driving instructor – he gave me Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome!