This post is a continuation of Baldrick’s saga to obtain her island driver’s license. If you missed it, be sure to check out Learner Driver: Part 1.
It’s Saturday morning and I am at the greasy wheel of Mr. X’s car, enduring my first, rather lengthy driving lesson.
I pull into the marina car park and slow the car to a stop.
“Why are you stopping?” asks Mr. X.
“To let them pass,” I explain, pointing to the group of tourists, now mid-way across the road.
“Why would you do that? Just toot your horn,” he insists.
I look at the group of people slowly moving from their safari bus to the bar and, with a great deal of embarrassment, gingerly toot my horn. As expected, we are met with surprised faces as they quickly move aside to let this impatient “learner driver” pass. I attempt to apologise with my expression, my face desperately trying to convey, it’s not me, it’s this jackass beside me, but it’s me behind the wheel, I am the one to blame. I sigh; I’m not sure how much longer I can resist the urge to disagree with my instructor.
The focus of today’s lesson seems to revolve around the all-important horn. I am to toot my horn at every pedestrian on the road; I am to be a nuisance with my horn. He hammers this point home throughout the morning, reaching over and tooting the horn for me at pedestrians, random cars, anyone he knows.
“Should I toot at the dogs too?” I ask.
His face says no, that would be stupid.
We head for a hill to practice hill starts and other “great tricks” which will not be required on the driver’s test but in his opinion, will make me a great driver. I try to explain that I don’t want to learn anything that isn’t covered in the test, but he insists. He hacks up and spits out of the window, a common practice in the islands but one that still makes me cringe.
I take a turn to the left, and Mr. X taps at my hands gripping the wheel.
“Don’t hold the wheel like that,” he says, shaking his head with disapproval. “I don’t want to see fingers under there.”
My hands have been set at 10 and 2, the standard position for most countries. Not even for the test, I ask? Apparently not, I am to palm the wheel. He takes my hand, straightens out my fingers, and tells me I only need one hand to drive. I make a mental note to not retain any of these bad habits.
After the simple hill start (I’m driving an automatic), Mr. X explains his awesome trick: a bizarre, two-pedal, one-foot shuffle that will apparently allow me to avoid the “hassle” of using the handbrake. It’s awkward and hardly worth the effort, but he looks very impressed with himself. I make a second mental note to never bother with this trick and start heading for the port.
“Straighten up. Do you know what I’m saying?” he asks as I turn across the road.
Of course I understand this simple concept, I’m just having difficulty deciphering his accent and the actual phrase “straighten up” is not being used, as far as I can hear. He takes the wheel with one hand, my thigh with the other.
“This is the wood,” he explains, pointing to the center of the wheel. “Aka, the penis,” he says, clarifying his point. “You must put the wood between your legs!”
I release a short, surprised laugh, but he is quite serious. I am disturbed and amazed at his teaching methods, and am no doubt displaying these thoughts on my face as I look at him. My mind starts to wonder… are there any other instructors on this island?
We are almost at the port when I’m asked to stop the car and park in the car park behind us. I ask how I should go about this and he explains that I am to cross the road (in reverse), reverse back up the road, cross the flow of traffic (still in reverse), and back into the car park. I thought perhaps I had misunderstood and ask him to explain it again. He repeats his instructions word for word, this time with increased volume. Mr. X is obvious in his opinion that I am a moron, but he is asking me to do something I consider stupid, so I ask him again.
“That seems kind of silly. Why wouldn’t I continue on this road, turn around over there and then drive forward into the car park, normally?”
He explained that this was what would be expected of me during the test. Eventually, I just give in and begin reversing as instructed. As we enter the car park, Mr. X grips the wheel and I turn to face him.
“Why do you keep grabbing the wheel?” I ask, my annoyance finally creeping into my voice.
“Because I don’t want you to hit anything,” he replies.
“Well how am I meant to learn if you keep steering for me?”
He doesn’t see my point, I’ve lost patience with this man, and him with me. I’d rather bus it forever than deal with this nonsense. With the lesson now over, I pay the fee and, as is custom in the islands, include a tip for his bad service. I thank him for his time and regrettably inform him that I’ve decided to learn in a manual car.
Anyone know of a manual instructor?