I am on tenterhooks. My youngest daughter is about to take her driving test and much future happiness depends upon a positive outcome. We live in rural Shropshire where public transport is a fleeting, ethereal concept. To desire a bus’ arrival seems to instantly negate its existence.
I suspect that Schrodinger’s black cat in a box was an error in translation. What he really meant, as an explanation for the paradox of quantum mechanics as applied to everyday life, was the easily understood phenomena of a blue Arriva bus approaching from Shrewsbury, that seems to arrive but only in a different universe (the one where my daughter isn’t waiting at the stop sign).
I am, therefore, obliged to provide that which the council doesn’t: a robust, surprisingly cheap and (generally) uncomplaining taxi service. But a few months ago, as a mark of our faith in her abilities and my desperation, we purchased a small, eco-friendly car, which would be hers when she finally passed. Delighted, she immediately named it Stuart.
“A boy car!” I asked, surprised.
“No,” replied my daughter, darkly. “Stuart’s a girl. She has gender identity issues.”
I said nothing. I merely neutralised any expression that may have crept onto my face and nodded.
The whole ‘learning to drive’ experience has been a bit of an eye-opener. I took my test in 1980 and remember it as a casual, understated experience. I borrowed my boyfriend’s thirty-year-old Hillman van (which came with a starting handle and two bald tyres), drove around with him for a couple of weeks and then took and passed my test.
I doubt I’d pass now. I have discovered that I can understand, or at least guess the meaning of approximately 40% of all road signs, a score I consider reasonably encouraging. I can also re-tune the radio and search for chewing gum in the glove compartment, while tackling roundabouts and feeder lanes. This is a skill acquired over many years and the mark of a seasoned driver.
Not according to my daughter, or the seemingly endless video lessons available on ‘You Tube’, which she watches with religious absorption. These ‘lessons’ generally star a hapless teenage learner driver, maneuvering with geriatric caution through a generic town centre, turning the steering wheel as if opening a safe. Their progress is accompanied by a steady, incomprehensible list of failures and ‘minors’ delivered by smug, Old Testament types, leaving me to wonder how anyone ever passes their driving test.
But more cogently, how the hell I ever did…