Road to relief

As I flicked open the November page of my calendar, Monday the 8th jumped straight out at me. ‘Politics exam due’, ‘Folio due’ and ‘Media assignment due’ are not the most appealing phrases one can read. Especially when they’re all squashed into the one square.

More intimidating than these three University assessments, however, was the following day’s trial. My calendar – the sadistic beast it is – refused to let me enjoy my partial liberation. Rather, the words ‘Driving test 1:55’ caused my heart to skip a couple of beats.

As I parked my Dad’s Honda out the front of the VicRoads’ Burwood East office, the sun’s vicious rays brought a warm sweat to my forehead. The building’s interior, on the other hand, was well protected from the sun. But that didn’t stop me from sweating.

I had arrived with plenty of time, a foolish decision in hindsight. The monitors and audio equipment threatened to distract me with random assortments of beeps, numbers, and directions. But I just sat there motionless. One by one, my neighbours departed their seats and were replaced by new faces. My Mum and I, however, remained stationary. Aside from our occasional prayers of desperation, we barely spoke.

All that I could think of was my most recent visit to this venue. It was barely two months ago that I first attempted to earn my Ps. I remember driving cautiously and safely. I remember abiding by the rules. I remember thinking that I was primed for my licence. I remember being asked to pull over. I remember being asked to swap to the passenger seat. I remember them informing me that I had failed to stop a stop sign.

The hollow and miserable feeling that followed that failure was reinvigorated by the smells and sounds of the VicRoads’ offices. From my front row seat, I watched as teenagers like myself were delivered their mixed results. An Indian girl, upon hearing that she had passed, struggled to hide her merry expression. Beside her, a younger boy didn’t know what to feel. With an excessive amount of nonchalance, his instructor listed all his mistakes. His old woman received the news with a typical motherly sigh, but his face was drained of all emotion. His body slouched as he left the counter.

I made shallow judgments about the instructors as they entered the office. Down one end, a large man with a daunting beard called out various names in a disgruntled tone. To my relief, my name was not one of those. On the other side was an older man who looked eager to grant fresh licences. His face was marred by wrinkles, but I sensed in him an air of gracefulness. He likewise refused to read my name. The lady that eventually asked for “Kevin” seemed to fit somewhere in between these two spectrums. She didn’t seem particularly malevolent, but considering that a lady of her age and build had failed me two months earlier, I proceeded with caution.

The drive test lasted for roughly forty minutes, but I swear it was longer. My instructor took me through unfamiliar roads and remained silent except for her GPS-esque commands.

At one point, she frightened me by requesting that I pull over. I worried that I had thoughtlessly erred, and failed yet again. My resignation of defeat came to the fore; I released a devastated sigh.

Yet my instructor didn’t ask to me to leave the vehicle. Rather, she congratulated me on passing stage one. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so nervous; the main reason for my tension was that I was expecting to be assessed on parallel parking. She has instead asked me to complete a straightforward three point turn, and I hadn’t even noticed.

Apart from a few car-familiarity difficulties – at one point, my nerves caused me turned the engine on, when it was already on – the remainder of the test ran to plan. My only confrontation with school zones occurred at 2:15, fifteen minutes before limitation periods commenced, and my lane-changing exercises were performed without another car in sight. When I returned to VicRoads, my instructor left me in suspense by abandoning the car once I had parked it. Only once the words “You are successful” manifested themselves into an audible specimen was I able to breathe a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief that was 150 driving hours (or 18 human months) in the making.

Potentially, my upgrade from L plates to P plates just adds another wild Asian driver to the roads. When my licence arrives in the mail next week, I hope my photo looks less Asian than the Oriental face currently donning my learner’s permit.

On a serious note, though, I don’t want to be another statistic. We all know how many accidents happen on our roads. As I reached the intersection of Springvale and Highbury roads, this point could not have been made clearer. Police and the fire brigade blocked the traffic, as they guided cars away from a fateful collision site. A car had virtually been split in half by a traffic light post. The car was a write-off; the post was ruined; and I do not expect that the victim survived. Minutes later, another accident occurred a few metres in front of me. Thankfully this ‘minor’ crash had no ‘causalities’, but both cars were ruined, and both drivers appeared shaken.

I don’t want that to be me.

It almost makes me thankful that I failed on my first attempt. While the disappointment of missing out initially brought me to tears, at least it proves that the people at VicRoads are applying a sufficient amount of quality control. The responsibility now lies with me, to prove that their renewed approval is warranted.