I’ve been a legal driver for just over a week now, and it’s a whole new world. Freedom, independence, buses getting in the way, it’s a realm of experience unmatched by any other, mainly because very few realms of experience can run into the back of you at 60 miles an hour.
I mean, tail-gaters. Look, if I wanted your car stuck up my exhaust I’d have ordered it as an optional extra. As it stands, I’d rather you didn’t get so close. It’s not good. If our cars were people in a bar, you’d be thrown out of a window by a bouncer due to persistant harrasment. It’s not like I’m driving slowly, it’s just that there are these things called speed cameras, and they cost you money if you drive past them at roughly half the speed of light. Listen, guys, science lesson. Your car and my car can’t occupy the same point in spacetime. It’s a physical impossibility. It may be something to do with quantum physics, I don’t know.
Okay, so sometimes I’m a little over-cautious around speed cameras. And I make mistakes, mainly to do with gears. So sue me. At least I haven’t been in any accidents yet. I’ve caused about seventeen, but I’ve not been in any!
Ha ha! Just my little joke there! I’m confident that, should I have to perform an emergency stop, I’ll get it done successfully by the third attempt at least.
Thing is, it’s not everyone that gives me trouble, not by any means. It’s actually a small cadre of taxi drivers. I suspect they went to the same taxi driver school that the guy who drove us to the airport in San Francisco attended. He was a great guy, really he was, very open and friendly. However, while he was being open and friendly, he was teaching us how to drive aggressively in order to survive on America’s Darwinian highways. This involved deliberately flashing the wrong indicator, and using the hazard warning lights to make the people following us aware of important road-related facts, ie. “There’s not a hazard at the moment, but if you don’t get out of my way, a hazard can most definitely be arranged, if you catch my drift.” I was in the passenger seat. I thought I was going to die. Some people say that a near death experience makes them feel more alive. I just think they make you feel nearer death.
And talking of nearer death, if you don’t want me to crash into you or innocent pedestrians and puppies, for goodness sake ditch the full beam headlights! It’s dark, and suddenly you’re blinded not only by the oncoming traffic, but also by the reflection of full-beams headlights in your rear-view mirror. At least I think they were headlights, but the disembodied voice saying “Move towards the light!” is making me reconsider.
And don’t start me on boy racers. Dad always warned me to watch out for baseball caps. Other warning signs are loud, thumping and incredibly bad music, and Go Faster Bling.
Finding a decent radio station isn’t easy either. I can’t pick up Kerrang on my car radio, which means I’m stuck with either the commercial pop channels or Radio 1 (I could go with the refined spoken-word stations, such as Radio 4, but I’d get too caught up in the documentaries and end up driving into the back of a truck while learning about deforestation in northern Paraguay. There are also the classical stations, but music’s like cricket – some things would be better if they’d been invented with a more sensible running time in mind. I suspect that makes me a Philistine).
However, despite all this, it still beats the bus. I think that’s what really inspired me to pass, the thought have having to wait for a bus that patently isn’t going to arrive while you get some weird combination of hail, snow and rain beating down on you. It’s only been a week and a half, and already I can’t believe I ever survived without a car. The environmentalist in me realises I’m just adding to the traffic problems of the country and the pollution problems of the world as a whole. The pragmatist in me says that, had I been forced to use buses much longer, I’d’ve gone crazy with a golf club in a public place, and that was a more immediate problem than global warming. Mind you, knowing my luck, climate change will flood the Midlands and I’ll have to spend another stressful year getting myself a canoe licence.
But hey, what counts now is that I can drive. And I’m a good driver, 37% of the time. Its a holistic thing, a symbiotic relationship between myself, my car and the open highway. See, other people are ON the road, but I’m IN the road.
I may have misphrased that…