Roisin Ingle on . . . winning

I’m not blaming my mother (much) but my first standout memory of anyone learning to drive is the story of her crashing into the back of a parked bus in the late 1970s

I had decided driving was not going to be one of the things I’d win at in life.

I had decided driving was not going to be one of the things I’d win at in life.

 

It’s such a long time since I did any “tests” or “exams” that I got a serious buzz out of passing the (yes, I know it’s multichoice) test for my provisional licence recently. The fact that I got the maximum amount of questions wrong (four) didn’t do anything to dampen my delight.

Like most people, I much prefer winning. Anything at all. Tiddlywinks, say, or the battle to join the fastest-moving queue in the supermarket. It’s a weakness in my personality that I only generally go in for things if I know I have a decent chance of success. I mean, why else would you bother? On sports days I tell my children that it’s about taking part, my fingers feverishly crossed behind my back.

Studying for my provisional licence I felt like I might win. As though even in a battle against myself and a computer throwing up questions about tractors and their loads which I’ll hopefully never need to recall, it felt as though there could be a small victory to be enjoyed. When the woman told me I hadn’t failed I wanted to give her a hug. They are all exceptionally kind and professional in the provisional place so if you are thinking of taking the plunge even at forty-something, be not afraid. Although everyone else who was doing the test looked to be about 12, which was a shock. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I put the certificate on the mantelpiece when I got home. People who saw it there laughed. Driving is not a big deal to most people but it is to me.

Listen up

Róisín Meets . . . Deirdre O'Kane

I’m not blaming my mother (much) but my first standout memory of anyone learning to drive is the story of her crashing into the back of a parked bus in the late 1970s. It put me off for years. In the 1990s I did get a few lessons in Belfast, where I used to live. But I could never find that elusive “bite”, the sweet spot when you press the clutch and the accelerator at the same time. I gave it up and decided I had my mother’s genes. Driving was not going to be one of the things I’d win at in life.

Full disclaimer: I had no interest in ever trying to learn how to drive again. I live close to town. I cycle a bike. I have access to a driver and car at home. But for some reason the people in the Audi car company thought it might be a good public relations exercise if I tried to learn. For all I know they might be regretting it already. But they helped to organise my provisional licence and short of sitting the eye test for me, they did everything to facilitate my opening my front door to my new best friend, Olivia the Instructor.

I was surprised and then later relieved that my instructor was a woman. Despite a million bad jokes, when I hear “women drivers” I tend to think “extra-careful drivers” and clearly so do insurance companies. Olivia tells me we are going down to Raheny, to the causeway, and that when we get there I’m going to be driving. I am nodding away. I don’t believe her.

I decide not to tell Olivia I’m having A Bad Day. A day when I am not winning. A day of anger and rage and railing against injustices big and small. A day of replaying a particularly bad movie with a cast of heinous characters in my head. A day when my friend texts and says “observe the sensations, be in the moment” and it makes me want to smash to smithereens every single window in my house. When I open the door it is 5pm. I am just out of bed.

A few minutes later, I am on the causeway driving and the sweet spot is not elusive and I am going around a roundabout. I go into first and second and third and fourth and – “go for it,” says Olivia – fifth. Fifth! I am driving. Driving. In a car. And Olivia says: “Do you want to drive to Howth?” and I say, “On the road? I’m scared out of my mind but I say “okay”. And then I am driving to Howth, “creeping up” to traffic lights, narrowly missing buses, being careful about my cyclist comrades and remembering to breathe. “You can breathe,” says Olivia every few minutes helpfully.

For the whole lesson, to Howth and back, I don’t think about anything else except driving the car. I get out of my head and into the gears. First, second, third. Afterwards I tell Olivia about the state I was in when I first met her two hours ago. She tells me some home truths of her own.

And just like that, I’ve become more of a driver than I’ve ever been in my life. And just like that, I am winning again.

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