‘I’m morking the 20th anniversary of failing my test for the first time’
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: I set off for the driving test centre confident it would be 17th time lucky
Wednesday morked an anniversary of sorts – it being 20 years to the day since I failed my driving test for the very first time. Obviously, I took it as a good omen that it happened to also be the day when I was called for my latest resit and I set off for the test centre in Churchtown with genuine confidence that it was going to hopefully be a case of 17th time lucky.
So – yeah, no – I’m sitting in my cor outside and the front passenger door is suddenly opened by a man in his mid-50s, who sits into the cor, pulls the seatbelt across his body and then says the most incredible thing to me.
He’s like, “Rugby.”
Now, as you know, I come from a class of people for whom that’s as good as a Freemason’s handshake. As my old man always says, there’s something about even the word that instantly tells you that everything is going to be alright – and he should know, being one of Ireland’s most crooked men.
I’m there, “Can you repeat that please?” because I want to make sure I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick here.
He goes, “You played rugby. You won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal – it must be nearly 20 years ago.”
I’m like, “Can I just check – does this definitely mean I passed the test?”
And he laughs. He’s there, “No, you’re still going to have to prove your competency to drive, I’m afraid.”
Which is typical of the way Ireland is suddenly going – it’s not who you know anymore, it’s what you know.
He goes, “Take a right turn on to Landscape Road, then you’re going to be taking the next left on Churchtown Road Upper.”
I’m like, “Yeah, whatever”, just letting him know how out of order he’s being here.
“I recognised your name,” he goes. “Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. You actually played against my son once. He played at 10 for Wesley College. ”
And I’m there, “Look, what happens on the rugby field stays on the rugby field. Is this why you’ve clearly got it in for me?”
“He was a huge fan of yours. He said you were very nice to him.”
“Okay, that doesn’t sound like me. Are you sure it wasn’t a different Ross O’Carroll-Kelly?”
“No, he said you gave him some advice on his kicking technique.”
Jesus, I must have been concussed.
I’m there, “That was, em, very decent of me.”
He often mentions you as being an inspiration to him
He goes, “Yeah, thanks to your help, he completely changed the way he addressed the ball and started to get 10, 20 per cent more accuracy into his kicking. He ended up playing All Ireland League for Barnhall for years.”
“I’m going to have to say fair focks. Bornhall or not.”
“He often mentions you as being an inspiration to him. He always says he can’t believe that you never made it as a player.”
“Tell him I said thanks.”
“I will. Start indicating, then turn right onto Oakdown Road.”
“How am I doing, by the way? And that’s not me playing the rugby cord.”
He laughs. He’s there, “You’re doing well. I hope you don’t mind me remarking on this but you’re very old to be learning to drive.”
Now it’s my turn to laugh? I’m there, “I’ve been driving since I was a teenager – just badly. Yeah, no, I’ve actually failed this test 16 times.”
“Sixteen? Do you mind me asking why?”
He shakes his head and has a little chuckle to himself. And I stort to get a good feeling about how it’s going
“Usually small things. Everything from switching the radio on to roaring abuse out the window at someone who porked in a yellow box, then it turned out to be an unmorked Gorda cor.”
He shakes his head and has a little chuckle to himself. And I stort to get a good feeling about how it’s going. As a matter of fact, he even goes, “You actually drive rather well.”
And I’m there, “Hey, that’s good for me to hear, because I’ve always been a confidence player. I genuinely love a boost.”
“Maybe start applying the brake now – that light up ahead is orange.”
“I think I would have had time to go through it. But I don’t mind playing it safe if it’ll get me my licence.”
I ease off the accelerator. And that’s when he says it. Out of the blue. He’s like, “Oh, no! Not again!”
I turn to my head and I notice that the dude is clutching his left orm with a big, worried face on him. I’m like, “What’s wrong?”
He goes, “I think I’m having another heart episode.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me!”
“Can you return to the test centre please?”
He’s turned pale, I notice, and his breathing is all over the place?
I’m there, “What way do you want me to drive?”
He’s like, “What do you mean?”
“The way I’ve been driving for the last 10 minutes or the way I usually drive?”
Now, call me selfish but you can possibly guess what’s going through my mind at this point
He goes, “Just get there as fast as you can”, meaning the way I usually drive, then he takes out his phone, rings the test centre and asks them to phone an ambulance for him.
Now, call me selfish – I’ve been called worse? – but you can possibly guess what’s going through my mind at this point. I’m wondering how this turn of events is going to play in terms of me getting the pass that he seemed to be suggesting I was heading for?
So, very subtly, I end up going, “Are you left-handed or right-handed?”
He’s like, “I beg your pardon?”
“Yeah, no, I see you’re clutching your left orm there. I was wondering would you be still capable of filling out my test form?”
He’s like, “That’s what you’re wondering?”
I’m there, “Dude, I could put myself down for a pass – you’d just need to sign it.”
“That’s what’s going through your head? I think I’m about to have a heart attack here! Just drive me back to the test centre!”
Which is what I do. I make one last attempt to persuade him to give me the pass that would bring my provisional days to an end. I’m there, “Even if you just said it to one of your colleagues now – genuinely lovely goy, flying colours, blah, blah, blah.”
But he goes, “You little shit! For that, you can reapply to sit the test again!”