Driving Miss Bracken


With almost three years of driving experience under her belt, Amy Bracken wasn’t happy to hear that her Thursday morning would involve a brush-up lesson. As things turn out, however, she may have spoken far, far too soon…

“But I can drive!”

My reaction to the Features Editor’s proposal of a driving lesson was one of total indignance. As the proud owner of my very own scrap of metal on wheels, and having been driving for almost three years, I was pretty insulted at the suggestion that a driving lesson might be a necessity.

ripped l platesYet life is full of bitter pills, and thus I swallowed mine and reluctantly took to the driving seat. My initial reaction was a response to the sheer comfort of the shiny new car – I have become adjusted to sinking into the seat of my own banger. After proceeding to the ritual of adjusting the mirrors to my liking, I was – quite literally – ready to roll.

“So you can actually drive then?”, was the instructor’s opening gambit.

“Yes, I’ve been driving since I was 17.”

“Well, in that case, whenever you’re ready…”

Knocking the gear stick into reverse, flashbacks of my first driving lessons came to mind. “Lessons”, in fact, is a doubtful choice of word – I’ve always felt I had only two inductions to driving a car; a random spin around a field with my brother when I was about 14, and my first attempt on the roads on that fateful day with a driving instructor who was actually qualified.

“Just knock it back into neutral there for a second.”

Confused, I did as requested, and looked inquisitively at the instructor.

“What car do you normally drive?”

“A Ford Escort.”

“OK, so have you ever taken lessons on an instructor’s car before?”


“Right, so then you do know that you need to press the button on the gear-stick to put it in reverse?”

Cringe. Once again my nineties car has hit me where it hurts. With crimson cheeks, and marvelling at the way the car had six gears as opposed to five, I did as instructed and started the familiar foot mechanisms. Piece of cake.

Famous last words. As soon as I began to raise the clutch, I walloped my knee off the steering wheel.“Maybe you need to adjust your seat slightly”, comes the gentle advice from beside me.

Seat level corrected, once again I began the motions. Eureka! We were on the road.

Determined to demonstrate my driving experience, I ignored the fact that I was finding it impossible to manoeuvre the strange vehicle and kept a brave face – that is, until we reached the first junction.

Deftly indicating right, and judging my timing perfectly (for once – I have been known to cause near-fatalities by misjudging the amount of time I had to move off); I began to relax and feel rather elated.

“Your indicator is on there.” Cringe. Again.

Having gotten my own car over a year ago, I had become adjusted to the fact that in the year of its manufacture, the world’s car designers had yet to discover the magic of automatic indicator cancellation. My reflexes had sent me to cancel the indicator, which resulted in the left one coming on. Quickly rectifying my blunder, we continued with the lesson.

“Is there anything in particular you feel you need to practice?”

What?! “I don’t think I need to, to be honest, but seeing as we have time I suppose I could practise reversing round a corner.” My father had mentioned – repeatedly – that this is not my strong point.

Pulling into one of the student residences, I ducked as I recognised the friend of a friend. I just knew something was about to go pear-shaped.

I was right. Our combined corner choice couldn’t have been less strategically placed, as it quickly emerged that we were blocking a line of at least five cars, both ahead and behind. Eventually, it was decided that we should abandon the reversing idea. “Well in general, your driving seems fine.”

Well, I should hope so. Didn’t you hear me say that I’ve been driving for a number of years?!

“I actually have to be in a tutorial in ten minutes, so perhaps we’ll just head back?” I suggested. No prizes for guessing that I just wanted to get out of there.

“OK. I suppose it’d be quicker to go back the Clonskeagh way?”

We proceeded to Roebuck road, and I finally began to relax, having discovered that the driving instructor is from the same county as me, and enjoying the conversation. Until…

“Brake!!” CRINGE. Now I remember why I hate driving in urban areas. I often forget to watch for traffic lights.

I can safely say that I have never been so relieved to get out of a car – ever. Expressing my gratitude, I literally ran to my tutorial (not just because I wanted to get away, but because I was also late), vowing never again to accept tasks confidently, as it almost always backfires. Pride certainly precedes a fall.

There has been lots of talk recently about the necessity for motorists to take regular driving tests to help them adjust to changing road practises, but this is patently ridiculous. Once you learn to drive, you never forget how to drive… right?

Now where did I put that driving instructor’s business card?…