Driving test

This post by tomeemayeepa reminded me of my own experience of learning to drive.

It was in a small town without the heavy traffic we are used to in London and should have been easy. Unfortunately, I had a dour instructor with absolutely no sense of humour. He always wore a mauve pullover and ate boiled sweets which were also mauve.

His technique for eliciting improvements in my developing ability to drive was continually to express disappointment in my supposed lack of progress. “I thought you would take to it,” he would say with a sigh of exasperation at the end of each lesson. He also vouchsafed that he had taught other teachers to drive and that they make the worst students. Whenever he asked me a question on theory, his tone was of someone thinking “You won’t get this one, ha ha” and when I did answer it, he always seemed surprised and slightly put out.

There was apparently a competition among driving instructors in that town to be the first to have ten first-time passes in a row and as I was his current number 8 or 9 there was pressure on me to pass the test.

I did succeed, in spite the depressive effect of his continual (feigned or real) disappointment in me. Despite my success being also his success, he seemed slightly disappointed when I passed. As I drove the car back to the office he told me that the examiner had obviously been impressed by my height and had therefore given me an easy time of it. As I had been seated throughout, I don’t know how the examiner could have been impressed by my height but never mind. I inwardly rejoiced that I would not have to meet this boorish instructor ever again.

The examiner explained that he would at some point lean forward and slap his notebook against the windscreen and that I was then to execute an emergency stop. When the moment came I slammed on the brakes, bracing myself against the steering wheel. Despite his seat belt, the examiner nearly collided with the windscreen. I was far more impressed by this than he apparently was though after completion of the run he merely said that “gentle pressure on the brake pedal is all that is needed.”

I am somewhat bemused by the advice tomeemayeepa quotes, namely “If you go the wrong way do not panic: the examiner is testing your ability to drive not your ability to follow directions. It is better to go the wrong way correctly than to go the right way incorrectly.” I would have thought, perhaps naively, that a failure to take the car where the examiner instructs would reasonably be taken as an indication of your inability to make the car do what you want it to do and therefore as sufficient to fail you. It is presumably a concession to people whose first language is not English and who may therefore not understand the examiner’s instruction. Should people with such a poor grasp of English be accorded a driving licence?

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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One Response to Driving test

  1. tomeemayeepa says:

    Mauve pullover and sweet? Enough to put anyone off their driving. Hadn’t thought of the language angle- of course you can’t take an interpreter with you on the practical. I imagine it can go like this:
    Instructor: Turn left
    Candidate: Que?
    Instructor: Left
    Candidate: Lef?
    Instructor: That’s right.
    Candidate: OK
    Instructor: I said left!
    Candidate: No, no, you say rye
    Non-native speakers shoud at least be taught enough English to understand the abuse they will get from London taxi-drivers.
    I took my first test in Algiers. Tests were conducted at 6am in the port. This way there were no pedestrians, other vehicles, traffic signs or any of the other things you normally encounter when driving. The only danger was misunderstanding the examiner and ending up in the Mediterranean. Needless to say, I failed.

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