Monday, July 25, 2011

Driving (Me Crazy) Around Town

So, I've officially started the dreaded driving lessons today. Have I mentioned how much I disdainfully wrinkle my nose at the UK driving system? Thank goodness that once I passed this stupid practical test I won't have to take it again or renew my licence until I'm too old to see properly.

In all fairness, my driving instructor's not a bad guy. A bit quiet, and definitely makes a point of telling you when you do something that would fail your exam, but not a bad guy. I mean, he could go a lot harder on the tough love routine, and being clear about what you need to fix in order to pass is a good thing, but he still gives off a little bit of a stand-off-ish vibe. Perhaps it's the whole "stiff upper lip" nonsense. From that statement, don't assume he sounds like a Miss Marple extra or Winston Churchill; but he's just a quiet and reserved kind of spite of (only kind of) joking about how he'll start to yell "FAIL!" at me if I do something that would automatically cost me my passing mark on the exam.

No, it's not my driving instructor that I complain about (at least...not yet, and let's hope, not ever): it's the whole system. My fellow Americans, you don't realize how well you've got it! Holy crap; in any state I've lived in, our practical driving test is ten times easier than the palaver I've been told I have to perform and the hoops I have to jump through just to get my licence over here. I knew that as an experienced driver, I'd have a few bad habits to unlearn, but I swear it would have been easier to just erase most of my driving experience from my memory! No cross hands, no crossing the centre of the steering wheel with your arms, check your mirrors before applying the breaks, have the car in gear before you check the mirrors before you signal before you check the mirrors again before you drive off into the sunset. Even when I was first taught the mechanics of driving a manual, I've never had to remember so much at one time to drive successfully. Thank goodness this test comes up in 7 weeks or else I'd probably stab poor Neil the Driving Instructor in a fit of legal insanity. And let's face it: I do not need to be on some TV show trying to raise my baby from behind bars. That's just not cool.

Did you know the ridiculously daunting statistic that, over here, only 42% of people will pass their practical driving test the first time? 42%!!!! (Yes Lynn Truss, I've abused that exclamation point; mea culpa, mea culpa.) I swear you would have had to try to fail the exam I took in Maryland. I even had the option of taking the test on the DMV track...with no other cars around. They couldn't make it any easier if they just handed me the licence when I turned 16. That said; I don't feel that the test was really too easy. In point of fact, I've seen no benefit to the more stringent testing done here in the UK. While some of it may be needed since there are loads more steep inclines in suburban areas, tiny one-lane country roads, and 2-lane roads that most Americans would shudder to think that opposing lanes of traffic drive down, I guarantee that most of it is an exercise in pedantry. And let me tell you, whatever muscles get exercised when you're being uselessly pedantic, the DVLA must be pretty hench, because you'd think Useless-Pedantry was their middle name.

Le sigh. If only London had been cheap enough to live there until we moved. Then, I'd never have to drive anywhere in this country, and by the time I *did* have to drive, I'd just have to renew my expired Utah licence and change it to whatever state we set up residence in. Oh America, how I miss your comparatively lax driving standards. I miss your simplistic testing and lack of roundabouts. Though I must admit, America, I have gotten used to driving on the wrong side of the road. It just feels normal now!

In the meantime, I'll be practising looking in the mirrors before I do anything...probably to the point where I develop a rapid eye twitch, which people will assume means that I'm mentally unbalanced. And if poor Neil the Driving Instructor yells out "FAIL!" one too many times, I just might actually become mentally unbalanced...

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