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I was 15 years old and I wanted to learn to drive. My brothers scarpered. My parents were extraordinarily busy and the queue of volunteers was surprisingly small; much like supporters at a Biden Rally, no one seemed that keen on the task. One of my brothers friends was conscripted  He was the kind of lad ( 18 years old ) who would have been ordered to dance with the wall flowers at the school dance and would obligingly dance a waltz or foxtrot with the plain girl or the fat girl or the girl with crooked teeth. 

I could never understand why no one wanted to teach me how to drive: I was pretty, blonde, slim, and had very nice teeth. I didn't smell awful and was, in all respects, fairly easy on the eye. But for some reason the prospect of sitting in the passenger seat while I navigated my way around a gearbox, a clutch and  three little pedals didn't seem to be as popular as I had hoped.

So the valiant volunteer picked me up one morning and we headed off to a State Forest, about an hour's drive away from home. His Cortina had a bench seat and a column shift. He sat quite close to me, just in case he needed to respond quickly in an emergency he explained. As I settled in behind the wheel and he explained to me the ABC ( accelerator, brake, clutch  except however, down under it is CBA). We then lurched off down the road with the sickening graunch of the gearbox and the lurch of a clutch badly used. His face remained a mask of calm resignation and his voice did not betray any form of fear or distress - he was the epitome of  peaceful encouragement, saying in a velvety tone, " well done, you are doing really well " as we shuddered and groaned along the never ending stretch of bitumen through an avenue of Douglas Fir.

 

Who could forget Stephanie and her driving instructor? Naked Gun

After about 10 kilometres, I saw the thing that I had been dreading since the beginning of my first lesson: A  Corner.   My heart started to pound. It would not be sufficient to merely grip the steering wheel with white fingers. I would have to actually do something with it. As we approached the object of my fear,, he said " just let your mind softy turn the wheel, ever so slightly. Let your eyes stay looking a little further on and just relax. " 

I did, and I found that I had done the impossible : my very first corner. 

It was about 40 years later I had the opportunity to thank him for his patience and perseverance. Every weekend for months, picking me up and taking me into the forest and teaching me such complicated things as hills, icy roads and reversing. I asked him ( teasingly ) if he chose the deserted forest road in the hopes of a cuddle or a kiss. " No " he replied " it was the only place I could think of that was straight and mostly deserted of any other traffic. : Wise lad.

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Kaingaroa State Forest

Many years later, my 17 year old daughter wanted to learn to drive. I offered to give her her first lesson in a small Suzuki hatch that we used to take our dogs to the beach or to take the horse his lucerne. I insisted that she learn to drive in a manual car ( stick shift )  because my young friend from my driving lesson days told me that once you learn to drive a manual car, you can always drive a manual car. An automatic is something that you should only ever drive after you have mastered the clutch and gearbox.

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Not the green bucket but same model and colour. Mine had 2 doors and my daughter famously crammed 12 teenagers into it on schoolies week and went over the Noosa Hill. The bucket survived.

So it was that headed we off to a small loop road where she could drive around and around in circles to get used to the basics. We headed off.  Unlike my friend, I sat in the passenger seat with fingers turning white and my face frozen in the death stare of a nervous passenger heading off with Grandpa in peak hour traffic on a major highway. 

She murdered the gearbox and the engine was revving at a fierce rate as she had difficulty getting out of first gear.  The little green bucket  ( our nickname for the little Suzuki hatch ) tried desperately to do as it was told but, alas, it was getting confused. Are we changing gear? Braking? Accelerating? All of the above? All at once?  The poor wretched little car was more confused than Joe Biden being asked a tricky question like " Do you know who you are? "

In a meltdown , it decided to just do what my daughter wanted it to do and we headed into the park and came to a halt at the edge of a belt of eucalypts. The car was weeping. I was ready for the men in the long white coats and my daughter was laughing, declaring it the most fun she had in ages. 

foghaybalcarple

When she left home and went nursing, she drove the green bucket about 1200 km to her new home. I should have been charged with mental abuse of a car for that. Some months after she had started her new life, I got a phone call from her. She rang me most afternoons to fill me in on her day. 

" Oh Mum, I had a terrible day today " she said. 

" What happened? " 

" I was going to work this morning and the bucket was making a noise. It got louder and louder and I could still hear it with the window wound up and the radio turned on to top volume.  When I got to work, I got out and found what the problem was. I had a flat tyre and I had been running on the rim! Can you believe that? "

I asked her why she hadn't pulled over to check what was causing the noise. 

She replied " oh, I couldn't do that. It sounded expensive. "

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As it turns out, my daughter , now in her late 40's can drive in peak hour traffic on heavily congested roads and navigate her way through city traffic. I have driven many roads and only ever been beaten by the road to Larnarch Castle, the Crown Range Road and a very tall bridge over the Brisbane river- all of which I succumbed to, not because of my driving ability but because of my inability to deal with heights.

 As with all things in life, we must start somewhere and it takes a kind and patient teacher to guide us through our learning curves. Those times, like driving, when we encounter our first bend in the road or the first hill to climb. The patient teacher to help us navigate the gear changes and the time to accelerate and the time to apply the brakes.

shqurddr

Whoever is brave enough and patient enough to guide us, mentor us and sit beside us as an observer but be on hand to put us back on the right track is a rare and valuable person indeed.

How sad it is that so many young people today lack that person in their life and end up in the gutter because no one ever taught them to drive.

 

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