Everybody else your age drives though
Some of you are no doubt surprised that a traveller like yours truly is still in no possession of a driving license. I blame London: driving is anything but vital to my comfortable living here. In fact, driving would as much as jeopardise my comfortable living here. My faithful bicycle takes me to most places I need to go, with buses and the Tube filling in the gap. Train coverage to the rest of the UK is brilliant and dense. I have quite simply not once felt the need to drive a car in London.
And, when it comes to travelling abroad, two reasons impede my road mobility. First, I still prefer to travel alone some 95 percent of the time, which makes car rental uneconomical and unsafe should I choose to head to really isolated locations alone. Renting a whole car to visit places less than really isolated also makes little sense, bringing me to the second reason: public transport. I enjoy taking public transport abroad – not only can it be a great way to experience travel “local-style”, it also leaves my hands free to snap photos while somebody else is doing the driving. Some of the most remote places in the world I have visited – Svalbard, smaller Greek islands, non-touristy parts of Uzbekistan and the Lofoten archipelago – all provided some sort of public transport. Where scheduled services were not in place, local population always found ways to organise ad-hoc departures pretty much everywhere I have been. That failing, there is always the hitch-hiking option. I have struck so many great conversations catching shared taxis in Cuba, hitching free motorcycle rides in Greece, hopping on slow Indian trains – the list goes on indefinitely – that, once again, I have not once felt the need to drive myself.
So why am I suddenly learning now? I occasionally pretend to have high ambitions in mind – renting cars on holidays or driving future offspring to school are mere examples – but the main reason is, sadly, my mother, who has been nagging me to get a license for as many years as it was legal to do so. The funny part is that she has her own but has not driven a car other than her practise vehicle back in the 1990s. It goes without saying that my family has never even owned a car.
Meet your worst pupil ever
With all of the above in mind, I hope to be forgiven for starting driving lessons two months ago with not exactly a great deal of enthusiasm. Having already forced out two driving instructors, I believe to have established several proven ways of ridding oneself of an undesired driving instructor – as goes in detail below.
1. Improvise. Every driving instructor likes his instructions to be followed to a tiny detail. Blindly obeying orders is for sissies though: instead I recommend pushing every border on your way by introducing a personal touch into every aspect of the instruction. That includes narrowly missing that perfect wheel turning point, bothering to cancel light indicators instead of focusing on selecting the correct gear and checking rear view mirrors in a random order other than left to right.
2. Motivate disobedience. Everything you do is right and there is an explanation for it. You gave way to a car coming out of a side street because you were “being nice”. You waited for 10 minutes to orchestrate a turn into another road because you were summoning “inspiration”. You did not switch the gear because you thought your worthy instructor was about to command you to stop – the road being a busy London thoroughfare not remotely clashing with your story. Everything you do is a personal choice. For the only exception to this rule, see point 3.
3. Choose one mistake and stick to it. Nothing frustrates a driving instructor more than a really stupid mistake repeated several times, at every lesson. My preferred one was driving off with a handbrake still on – I still hear the “You’ll damage the car!” ringing in my ears.
4. Talk disapprovingly of other instructors. Driving instructors are evil creatures sent to this earth to prevent any sort of fun from happening. Your first one yelled at you for the tiniest mistake, accused you of trying to run over the entire population of London and eventually ditched you as a “hopeless nutcase”. Your friend’s instructor made sexual advances. Your paternal aunt’s instructor showed up to a lesson drunk. All driving instructors are chronic hypocrites who spend their free time stalling cars and bumping into curbs. It is unbelievable that they demand such unmatched perfection from others. After one such tirade, my rather chatty second instructor went silent for the whole of 10 minutes before finally having to speak up – I was about to drive off with a handbrake still on, again.
5. Ignore ice-breaking questions. It is likely that your driving instructor will wish to “break the ice” by asking personal questions. Your personal life is certainly not your driving instructor’s business though, so ignore any such attempt. When ignoring is no longer possible, provide concise, unsatisfying answers. My personal example was a response to a polite “Where did you go on holiday”. I smiled and said “Abroad. What are we covering today?”. Useless chatting goes against the driving lessons’ pricing model, which brings me swiftly to the next point.
6. Complain how “expensive” the lessons are. A one-hour driving lesson in the UK costs a whopping 20+ pounds, and it is customary to bulk them in at least twos for better learning. It is your driving instructor’s duty to know that the same lesson in your home country would cost a quarter of that price. Do not forget to remind him that the quality of the teaching is just as far apart. Which is why less time should be spent smiling as we discuss our holiday plans and more – driving energetically.
7. Downgrade the importance of passing. When your driving instructor takes out his phone and starts paging through happy pictures of his pupils who have passed their driving tests, shrug indifferently and say that you do not really care to see pictures of smiling strangers. Every instructor has a so-called pass rate they are keen to push up – unhealthy competition is detrimental to the society though, so make it perfectly clear that passing is of little importance to you. Moreover, make sure that your instructor knows of your plans to, invariably, ditch him in the very near future. Motivate it with feeling the need to “try out” lots of different teaching styles.
8. Comment on random road details. Red traffic lights sometimes fade next to an elaborately decorated balcony in the run-up to Christmas. Stare at it longingly and interrupt your instructor’s long and boring speech to comment how “absolutely beautiful” it is. When urged to route your attention back to the road, agree that, indeed, discussing other things is silly when you are forking up a fortune for the lessons already. Repeat point 6.
Bid your driving instructor farewell
I am writing this from the height of experience: sticking to the points above is a guaranteed way of being appointed a new driving instructor without breaking the law. There is a small chance of being somewhat damaged in the process should the named instructor become emotional. The worst thing that has happened to me personally though is, as said, being thrown out of the car – the best aspect of that being that it was the end of the lesson anyway, so I did not lose any of my hard-earned money.
Because we all know how expensive those lessons really are.