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What I learned by passing my driving test at 33.

Last week I passed my driving test and it was such a relief. I tried it three times in my life, the first time I was still in Italy. I was barely 18 and I tried to take it as soon as I possibly could. After all, at that age, learning to drive is a sort of status symbol, almost an obligation. Soon I realized that it wasn’t for me.

Ten years later, I was living in Scotland for a few years and I tried again. I got a few lessons and then I left it again. It was not for me at all. The experience was very different though. This was one of the many differences between Italy and the UK in general.

I found that the way they teach it here is way better in the way of treating the pupil and the interaction between the learner and the teacher but even there I saw it as an insurmountable obstacle.

After proper consideration, I realized the main problem was the gearbox so I took the insane decision of trying with an automatic car and then, the first time I went on that car I felt like I was finally getting somewhere.

So now, after a few days of getting my emotions and happiness down, I decided to write a small post about my experience and even give a couple of tips on future pupils who feel very shy about their approach to driving.

But those tips are not only meant for the simple act of taking a car but even about what taking all those lessons taught me, infant learning to drive has been something that helped me through different aspects of my life and even though the main one is the increase in attention while driving there are other points of view related.

Freedom is maybe one of the most important points of it all, the idea that you can go everywhere you want in any moment you want.

For many years I had been so naive I thought I didn’t need it and even though the small city i lives in (Kirkcaldy) is very concrete and everything that I need is close to my house, the idea of being able to do something, to travel about without being slave of times and prices for buses and trains is a plus that I wasn’t able to realize before it.

Even living in a small town requires lots of determination to be dealt with by foot.

Another very important point that changed my view about the road is the point of view that the cockpit of a car gives you. I am a cyclist myself and I go a lot in my spare time but the problem that goes with it is that I always feel like I am the owner of the road. I always see drivers as wizards that can simply deal with you by steering the wheel or braking but when you are in the car you realize how foolish it is, how difficult it is to avoid an incident if the person in front of you is a See You Next Tuesday person.

But it is not only about cyclists, even pedestrians have their fair share of danger. There is no way for me to emphasize how this changed my way to approach a curb and to look even if I don’t mean to.

On a couple of occasions I had to ask myself what the hell the guy walking on the pavement was doing walking up and down the road without any chance of going on a straight line, delaying my lessons by some.

The reality is that a driver needs a thousand different eyes in a thousand different places.

But at the end of the story it is as well an accomplishment that you have to be proud of. One year ago, when I passed my theory (which has a very nice anecdote) I thought this day would come in decades and now I am with my little pink card, the best there is.

Theory test anecdote [very short]:

It was during the hazard and perception videos and the last one had a motorcyclist who gave me the thumb up since I left him pass.

Since I am speaking like I was the person who was actually driving you can figure out I was very involved in the moment and the environment was so realistic at the moment that I actually gave the thumb up back.

I carefully looked around me to see if somebody noticed me and luckily for me, they didn’t.

Now I want to make a few suggestions to keep in mind during your test and bear in mind that they are not stuff like “keep the left” or “relax”. They are just suggestions based on my personal experience.

1) I passed the test on the second shot and the first time I actually didn’t even leave the driving center. It was so frustrating, even because at the end I only made two observation minors and that mistake at the beginning but this is not the point.

During the test my instructor asked me to do very basic stuff, not even asking me to do the mandatory maneuver which she asked me to do back at the center at the end of the test. 

The second time I had the same instructor and things went very differently. First of all I was able to leave the training center and this was like smiling and laughing (only for me though) so the test went extremely differently.

Beyond the fact that she asked me to do parallel parking half way in the test, something weird that I hadn’t experienced the first time happened. During the test she asked me to do very peculiar things such as (around the end of the test) asking me to park behind a car very closely. Or parking and leaving more than three or four times.

My idea had been that since I hadn’t failed the test up to that point, she was still testing me to see if I could pass it alright.

2) This may be a shot in the dark but I thought I drove very poorly, in many occasions I was very shy on the speed limit but it was on narrow roads and I skimmed the speed limit on the upper side on more than one occasion. Yet at the end I have passed with only two minors this means that up until the moment the instructor doesn’t dual control the car, doesn’t help you to drive or verbally tell you how to interact with the road, it doesn’t mean you surely passed, but your chances of passing passed from 0 to more than 0.

If the instructor doesn’t interact with you just keep driving because it could end in a surprise for you, a very pleasant surprise.

3) This is the most important of them all but you must approach the test not with the intention to pass it but with the intention of driving.

This is the entirety of my experience in my endeavor for a challenge I thought it was impossible to accomplish for me so… Just do it. And (since I don’t want to open another point just for a wee sentence), Take your time! Is not a run so take your time.

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