The long nightmare is over

I am now officially licensed to operate motor vehicles.

I think that’s the most ridiculously overprepared I’ve ever been for a test. The nightmare began just over a week ago; I was due to take the test last Saturday. I am terrified of tests. Always have been. It would not be unreasonable to wonder how I ever graduated, and the answer is that it almost killed me. When everyone else was out partying, I spent a week in bed recovering.

By Friday afternoon, I couldn’t relax. After work I got on my bike and cycled over to the Cambridge Armory. I then cycled along every single street within a couple of kilometers of the test area, noting any particularly unpleasant traps. (The best one: a really wide turn that looks invitingly safe, with a 20mph speed limit sign. Around the corner, hidden by a building, is an unexpected zebra crossing, and half of the crossing is hidden by a makeshift piece of road repair so you can hardly see it.)

In the event, the driving school managed to forget me, even though I called them on Saturday morning and they assured me they’d be there. So I had another week of anxiety to face.

Thursday of this week, I had another driving session, just to keep in practice. I’d discovered previously that if I left it over a week between sessions, when I got back in the car I’d find myself sitting there thinking “What the hell is this thing?” and I didn’t want that to happen for the test.

Thursday went really well. I drove for a full hour without the instructor being able to fault me on anything. I even easily avoided the cat that shot out into the road—I’d spotted the woman with the yappy dog, and the girl with the cat in her arms, and I had a feeling that there was going to be some cat-related excitement. Sure enough, voom, but I was ready.

Then the instructor told me he was going on vacation. He’d arrange for a colleague to take me on the test today. Of course, it would be a different car. Oh joy, oh rapture.

So, I got up around 05:30 (yes, the one in the frickin’ morning), unable to sleep. By shortly after 7 I was waiting in line, my stomach tying itself in knots.

Then it was my turn. I looked around carefully, pulled away gently. I was a bit concerned about the brakes of an unfamiliar car, but managed a smooth stop by the stop sign. Turned right, looking carefully left for oncoming traffic. OK, so the steering wheel was a different radius, that wasn’t something I was expecting, but… The road was narrow, and a big yellow truck was thundering towards us. A car was parked on the right. The gap looked just about big enough, but I’m not that kind of driver, particularly not in an unfamiliar car. I slowed to a halt and let the truck pass before pulling around the parked car and continuing.

When the cop asked me to pull over to the left, I was momentarily confused. That’s it, he said, You’ve passed. Either you can do it or you can’t.

He handed me the paperwork. You drive pretty good. I thanked him.

It was over.

So next week I’ll head downtown and get the plastic card. Then, we have to get a Prius…

But before all that, I need to spend the rest of the weekend trying to return to a state of reasonable relaxation.