Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Driving worries

Tell me, friends, when is this whole driving thing going to get less terrifying?

I live in a province where you get licensed in stages. Because I've lived most of my live in a big city where a car isn't necessary, I am a cyclist to get around, mostly, with secondary reliance on public transit and walking. I didn't learn to drive until after I turned 30 - somebody (well, R.) thought it would be a good idea to give me driving lessons for this big b-day. (??) Anyway, yes, so I learned - very nervously, I might add - and I passed the first test a year ago. Did some driving on trips last summer - mostly highway driving far from the city, which was okay. Then didn't drive once for eight months - there is no car, you see. And now, on Friday, I am taking the final stage test, which will give me a full license. This is otherwise known as the Highway Test. (Although the terror of various sorts of parking will be tested once again, as well. ) (Another note: I am obviously a masochist, and perhaps also a Giant Dumbass. The place I am moving to doesn't have this graduated licensing thing, and I could just get a full license there without ever doing this test in Home City. I wanted it to make me into a better driver, though - to prove to myself before I take to various freeways that I am worthy of the road...)

So over the last six weeks, I've been taking my third round of in-car lessons, with a focus on in-city freeway driving. Merging onto the freeway stood out as the most terrifying task of driving, for me. Hell, anything to do with freeways in this big city - freeways which people say are about as bad as it gets - scares the pants off me. But I've been doing it, though not without a few scares and screams. My instructor says I'm fine, that my only real problem is my nervousness, which could cause me to make a mistake.

Certainly, in yesterday's time in the car, my nerves were shot. There were cowboys out on those roads to a degree I've never seen. Weaving and speeding and cutting me off time after time -- such reckless driving. And it's supposed to be just par for the course. I'm supposed to get used to this. And this day of recklessness comes in the wake of much-publicized terrible deaths - this very week - on the same freeways on which I am practicing, because of highway racing by 20-year-old guys. (When I hear stories like this - about people racing at 180 kms/hour - I get quickly reacquainted with my mostly suppressed violent tendencies. I want to strangle this people with my bare hands....) But this is apparently a common occurrence round these parts.

I now understand where road rage comes from (or some versions of it, at least). Fear. Yesterday I was screaming profanities at many of the reckless drivers who were scaring me, causing my instructor to laugh at me incredulously, I guess because I am generally so mild-mannered. I used to be highly intolerant of R's Extreme road rage, but now that I know where it comes from, I have more sympathy.

I guess I am just worried about all of this. It makes me want to thrown in the towel. I don't plan to own a car. I plan on having this skill so that I can drive on trips, and so that I can rent a car about every 3-4 weekends, get out of town to explore the region, do some car-requiring errands. But I don't know if this is enough driving to make me ever feel comfortable with it. It is clear to me that this is a skill that takes practice - that it doesn't take much of an investment of time to make you feel infinitely more comfortable. But only driving once or twice a month? I don't know if that's enough...I do wonder if all this money and time spent on this is a waste of time. I also wonder if it's safe, if I'm safe. If others are safe from me! My instructor seems to think so, but oy, I'm not sure.


Tiruncula said...

If it's any consolation, I'm an experienced and pretty agressive city driver - I've driven in Rome, Paris, London, and NY, among other places - and the freeways around your city terrify me. Once you've got the license, you'll be able to get comfortable on what are bound to be much saner roads in your new place.

medieval woman said...

You'll be great - this is a good skill to have and T's right - you'll be getting to saner roads soon...

Good luck!!!


dbm/gaa said...

I am exactly the same about driving - I hate it, I'm terrible at it for exactly the reason you are, nervousness. Plus I have a lousy sense of space so figuring out distances (especially when parking) is laughably difficult for me. I learned how to drive in 1995 (late twenties) in Edmonton (big roads, no highway driving to speak of) and still sucked and was totally nervous. I let my license lapse when we moved here because I would have had to take a test and I knew I'd fail.

Sometimes not driving is inconvenient, but we cope (my partner does drive, very well too). I don't trust myself and I don't trust others, especially in our shared city - people here drive like flaming idiots so I can't see myself ever driving here, but if I ever get a job somewhere rural or suburban or with lousy transit I'll have to re-learn and that will be a huge trial for me. I think you are being very practical and very brave learning here, stick with it! If you don't pass your test just re-take out west where you'll probably be absolutely fine.

Hilaire said...

Thanks for the encouragement, all...And thank you, Tiruncula, for confirming that this is indeed a scary place to drive...that makes me feel better.

Well, no matter what happens at tomorrow's test, I'm lucky to be moving to a jurisdiction where I can just have a full license without a second test - and then just try to have the opportunity to drive as much as possible.