All rage no road: stories of driver’s licence failure
Lying about having epilepsy was when I hit rock bottom on the excuses spectrum.
But when faced with the perfectly reasonable question from a Canberra cabbie who had picked me up twice in a day, as to why a seemingly healthy 27 year old did not just drive himself, I blanked and then came up with: “well I have epilepsy you see, stops you driving.”
Firstly, apologies to any epileptics reading this for using your problem as an excuse to escape the embarrassment of not having my driver’s licence, as well as using possibly factually inaccurate information about epilepsy impeding your ability to drive (a friend with epilepsy just mentioned this once so I especially apologise to him).
If it’s any consolation the cabbie didn’t buy it. It may have been his sub-continental ability to read bullshit or just the fact that I came across as exactly what I was: a bloke who was too lazy to get his driver’s licence.
It is not entirely clear how this happened. Much like the explanation from Steve Carrell in 40-Year-Old Virgin - it just never happened. In fact the relationship between cars, women and virginity is often cited to me as reason why I should have had my licence earlier. To these people I would point out that I didn’t exactly go to the high school in Grease, and that getting into the T-Birds to achieve an in with the Pink Ladies was never my modus operandi. Perhaps the guys with cars did have more fun, but ignorance was bliss as far as I was concerned.
Cars were just never something I cared about as a teenager, and most women never cared whether I had my licence or not. At university if I was feeling particularly savvy about it I could turn it into some kind of feminist issue: “of course, you could always mess with the paradigm and pick me up?”
The increasing “awareness” of climate change in these years helped a great deal. By merely mentioning that I simply rode my bike or skateboard to the party it implied a choice not to drive out of concern for global warming, rather than simply not possessing the ability to drive. Anyway, when you drove you couldn’t drink, so driving really wasn’t ticking many boxes for me.
Justifying a seat in the car on road trips was easy enough. Possessing a combination of navigational and raconteurial ability I argued my presence to be a necessity - and preferably in the front seat so as to also have access to the music collection (DJ being another talent to offer the car).
It’s not as if I never tried to get my licence. There was three separate summers when I was a few lessons away from a licence (the ACT has a great log book system which has been allowing inept teenage drivers on the road for years). One was interrupted by a trip to India another by getting a cadetship and having to move to Melbourne.
The question of my profession is probably the most astounding part of my going this far in life without a licence. There are many editors who, within their rights, would simply have told me not to come back into the building until I was holding a licence. My only saving grace has been working for sympathetic and similarly befuddled individuals, and the fact that photographers like to drive. Well that’s what I told myself anyway.
It would also help the cause if driving instructors were not, in the main, complete lunatics.
My experiences with driving instructors have ranged from being told by one that, despite the advice of my optometrist, glasses were not necessary for driving, to being sussed out by another as a potential customer for his sideline pot-dealing business (although another instructor offered me wholesale cigarettes for $5 a pack, so she did score a customer that day). While trying to learn how to drive from these people you are bombarded by bizarre rants on subjects ranging from immigration to their divorce settlements, so meandering and unhinged they would make Bob Katter blush.
But blaming driving instructors is pretty pathetic. Surely whatever affliction they suffer is dwarfed by pathological inability of a perfectly healthy person to delay obtaining a licence by 12 years.
Right now I am looking at another year drawing to a close without a driver’s licence, and another New Year’s resolution failure. While trying to present driving holiday destination ideas to a girlfriend long since over my passenger side charms, I get the distinct feeling that, one way or another, she won’t be seeing in another New Year with this non-driver. This is the point at which New Year’s resolutions turn into more pressing ultimatums.
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