Matthew Munson: I’m not getting in the driving seat

I’m late with this week’s column, although I accept full responsibility. I’ve had a busy weekend and I dozed off at my keyboard when I was meant to be writing.

I was up in London all day Saturday and in Bournemouth on Sunday, visiting different groups of friends, and I’m reliant entirely on lifts and public transport.

My not-driving stance is partly by choice – I don’t enjoy it – and partly by necessity; I’m an awful driver. I did try; I’ve taken almost as many lessons as Maureen, that woman from Driving School all those years ago, and I’ve even sat the tests.

When I was 18, I remember thinking, “Alright, I’d better give this a go.” Everyone around me was learning, so I caved to peer pressure – one of the few times I have in my life. Two and a bit years later, I gave it up as a bad job; my driving instructor, a wonderfully patient man who’s still working now despite the stress I must have put him through, was wonderfully encouraging and felt I should continue – but after six tests, where I managed to mount the kerb on one memorable occasion and go the wrong way down a one-way street, I decided that enough was enough.

I got through the rest of my 20s quite well, without needing to drive, aside from a few minor inconveniences; having to wait for a bus or a taxi to arrive, or work around the generous offer of a lift, was trivial. No-one ever grumbled once about giving me a lift and I’m forever grateful to people who offer.

In my early 30s, I was inspired to try again, however, when a friend of mine – very similar to me in many ways, and who had reached her early 40s without ever needing to drive – had finally passed her test in order to help with taking her mum to a few appointments. I thought at the time; “Well, that’s it; I must give it a go!” And so I did.

Well, six months later, before I’d even taken a test, I wasn’t enjoying the experience; I used to feel ill every time my lesson came around, and I’d be constantly looking for an excuse not to go.

When I was relating this to someone, they asked me a simple question; “Then why are you doing it?” My mouth flapped open and closed rather uselessly until I marshalled my thoughts and said, “I don’t want to.”

So I stopped, and it was the best thing that ever happened. I feel so much more calm and I’m not inflicting my driving aptitude on the poor, unsuspecting public. Although, having spent six hours on the road with my friend Di (who is an excellent driver, it had to be said) to Bournemouth and back on Easter Sunday, I think I’d rather fit in on the roads with some of the chaos I observed from the people who couldn’t, for instance, operate fifth gear or the indicator.

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