LEARNING to drive is the gateway to freedom and independence. There is no longer the need for your parents to be chauffeurs. And you do not have to know the bus and train schedules by heart.
I studied the traffic rules thoroughly and took the theory examination as soon as I turned of age to drive. What made it more interesting was that I sat the test together with my mother as her Malaysian driving licence is not valid in Ireland.
The theory test was held in a van. The surroundings seemed a little eerie as there was no one else in sight. I knocked on the door and a man appeared and welcomed us. The van seemed like a sardine can from the inside as it was divided into waiting and testing rooms. We sat there as quiet as mice as there were other examinees.
Finally, it was our turn. There were four equally spaced computers and we were required to answer 40 questions online. Once we were done, our test results were printed. To our delight, both my mum and I passed!
Then came the tougher part — the driving. My instructor, who sat in the front passenger seat, had her own brake and clutch pedals so I felt safe as the driver. However, when I practised in my mother’s car, there was no one else in control — well, except the numerous times when she had to apply the handbrake.
The confusion of handling the gears, signals and pedals, and looking at the mirrors simultaneously seemed to get the better of me. Minor accidents affected my confidence and I was positive that I would end up a reckless driver. I deferred my on-the-road test twice due to the lack of belief in myself.
But I was limited to two deferrals, so I started driving on the test routes every day when the third date was set. I practised three manoeuvres: a hill start, a reverse around a corner and a three-point turn. I feared one section of the route — a three-point turn on a steep hill.
Finally, I buckled up for the ride of my life on the day of my driving examination. My mum drove me to the driving centre and made sure I had memorised all the possible questions concerning secondary car controls as well as the different components under the car bonnet.
She left and in her place was Jim, a bald, tall and plump man. He smiled slightly too much which left me feeling uneasy and even more anxious about my test. Once the oral questions were over, I sat behind the steering wheel and hoped that there would not be many cars on the road.
From my peripheral vision, I knew I had made a mistake the minute he marked a cross on a sheet of paper. Nine crosses would have meant I failed the test. I saw him move his hand several times throughout the drive and my heart began to palpitate. I began to think of what everyone would say. “Normally you’ll fail the first time because the test is very strictly marked.”
The test course ended and I began biting my fingernails and hyperventilating. As we walked back into the centre, Jim said the two most comforting words ever: “You passed.”
The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart