Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Driving TEST!

Last week ten years after getting my first provisional licence I finally got my full driving licence. It's been a real learning experience.

First there was a month of classes in the three topics covered in the written exam: Traffic, Motor and First Aid. I attended all the classes, something only two other people in the class did. The exam was a centralised so about four hundred people from the state of Canakkale descended on a primary school one Saturday. We crammed into tiny desks and answered 120 multiple choice questions on the three topics.

Then came the driving lessons themselves. These were an hour and a half of driving on consecutive days, totalling fifteen hours of driving. My teacher was relaxed and calm and managed to allow me to feel in control from the very start of the lessons. She refused to keep to the designated routes for teaching students, arguing that as they were both relatively simple (not too many traffic lights or tight maneovering needed) they don't prepare students to drive in traffic. Our lessons would begin with a run on the test route, which ran from the Sanayii to Tansas and back; 3km straight road, a turn and back along the same road with several lights, two roundabouts and no maneovres. Then we'd either work on reversing, parking, or turning and then drive through the town. By the end of nine lessons I was comfortable in the Toyota Yaris and reasonably happy with my progress.

Now came the trouble. My final lesson was with a different teacher, the one who would accompany me during the test. She opened the glove compartment, blocking the view of her feet and then used the pedals continuously. It made for a very nerve-wrecking experience. I didn't feel in control. At one point I began to slow down, as I could see the lights were about to change. But she hit the accelerator and sped us up through the changing lights!

So I was quite nervous coming up to the test. I sat in and said hello to the two testers in the back of the car I could see the glove compartment was open. I adjusted the seat, checked the mirrors and put on my seatbelt. Turned the ignition, took off the handbrake, signalled and hit the accelerator while gradually raising the clutch. The engine began to roar. And we went nowhere. Then the instructor finally began to raise the clutch to allow us to move. It was probably an instant but it felt like a lifetime. The rest of the test is a mercifully short blur of nerves. She accelerated along one stretch and then when I finally felt the accelerator in my control she warned me about driving too fast! I went through an orange light (not a problem in itself, but I would have prefered to stop) because I was afraid I'd ended up cut out in the middle of the junction if she tried to speed up as I tried to stop.

I came out a nervous wreck with a severe dent in my driving confidence. When I rang to get the results a day or two later the secretary joked that I'd failed and I nearly believed her. I got the licence last week having paid the money and been fingerprinted. Last weekend I started on our own truck, a rather bigger car than the little Yaris. It'll be a while before I'm confident enough to drive on my own without the Handyman's guidance but that's a matter of time and experience.