i have my driver’s license. i can drive, technically. before this past thursday i hadn’t driven at all since i passed the test almost two years ago, and otherwise i’d barely driven outside lessons and my first (failed, slightly) test. by the time i passed the test, i could drive, not well, but competently. i was never comfortable with a car. i was a late driver, didn’t start lessons until i was i think 18, after much coaxing. when i finally got around to it i didn’t take to it at all. i found driving very awkward, never achieved an ease. it never became automatic: every blind spot check, every turn-signal had to be very deliberate—i’d make a checklist in my head of actions to perform a block in advance of every turn, then they would nudge other actions i had to perform in the meantime out of my brain. i had to watch the speedometer closely and it seemed like i always ended up erring on one side or the other. i had a habit of drifting towards the curb, somehow without noticing as it was happening. and whenever i screwed up i would think about how i was piloting several tons of metal at however many kilometers per hour, and how any slight slip on my part could turn that into an awful weapon against whoever had the misfortune to be in the vicinity. and then the awkward would swell into nerve-wracking. i would feel safer and more in control with a gun than with a car. shortly after i got my license i was back to university again, where i didn’t have access to a car anyway, and then when i came home i just didn’t drive. things went back to pretty much how they were before. i took buses or asked for drives when i needed to get around. over time the unease congealed into something almost like a principle and when confronted i tried very very hard to maintain my non-driving status. but the geography here is not very forgiving in this regard. i live far enough from our sole “urban center” that i need a vehicle to get there, and we have severely limited public transit options. mom bugged me about it for months and it came to a point where i was exhausted and didn’t feel like it would be worth the fight to hold my ground, so i conceded to take some lessons. in my head i am framing it in a sort of “obliteration&reconstruction of self” narrative because i am ridiculous and find it easier to reconcile myself to total self-abasement than slight compromise. (also: i was lucky enough to stumble into a group of friends many of whom also do not drive, who made me feel okayer about not being able to drive, and now i feel like i’m leaving them behind somehow, like in marmaduke when marmaduke wins favor with the cool dogs and neglects the misfit dogs who were nice to him before he was cool and helped him get there—except i’m not a jerk like marmaduke (that dog is such a jerk), i’m just at the mercy of circumstance.)
so at the end of last week i took two lessons, 45 minutes each, one on thursday and one on friday, both at 2:00. my driving instructor, his name was blair i think, was a late-middle-aged guy with a mustache, shades, a denim jacket, cowboy boots and a big silver belt buckle. gruff, a little—grumbled in bursts about how poorly all the people around us are driving—but easy-going, which worked much better for me than my previous instructors, who tended to bark at me when i was too tentative (so, most of the time). we drove around downtown sydney and parked a few times. i was and am decent with road rules, but the mechanics of it—my body controlling the car’s—are still pretty difficult. the wheel and the gas feel way too sensitive. i trip from not enough straight into too much, and if i can find the midpoint it’s slippery; any slight change (a car in front of me driving a little erratically, for example) and i lose it. i’m, both intellectually and sort of physically, very aware of the size and weight of the car. it feels like it doesn’t have enough nuance of articulation for its mass. over the course of the two sessions (both individually and cumulatively) i got a bit more comfortable, but i think that was just rubbing the sleep out of my eyes from not having driven in so long. i mean, it wasn’t horrible—it wasn’t as bad as i expected (which i sort of expected)—and i still can drive. still not well, but i think i’m closer to an inconvenience than a hazard. i felt kind of okay about it i guess. i still can’t imagine ever wanting to own a car.