Fear and Terror on the Roads


It’s been a while since I’ve risked the wrath of the parenting authorities so, as it appears their investigations have come to naught, it’s about time for another parental post. For any parents with kids entering the mid-late teenage years this is one which will let you know that you’re not alone in the bowel-liquefying endeavour of teaching your teens to drive.

It is a roller coaster of emotion, this whole licence thing, and like all roller coasters it starts on a high. The moment when your young’n turns away from the counter down at the old transport office with a big smile on their dial as they’ve just been handed their learners permit. As a parent your heart swells at the sight of the pure joy that is currently surging through your child. It is truly a wonderful moment.

But like all roller coasters it’s mostly downhill from here, and the first drop is a doozy. From that dizzying high, the fear kicks in as you look across from the passenger seat, yes the passenger seat of your own car, your pride and joy and you see an excited, yet horribly inexperienced driver sitting behind the steering wheel. That life form who you had to teach to use a spoon and a dunny is now in control (hopefully) of a one tonne flying piece of metal and rubber.

On my first time through this process I wasn’t fully aware of the terror awaiting me and so when I picked Mortimer up from his mother’s and casually tossed him the keys to the Hilux, I knew not what I had done. I don’t remember much of the first trip, as my eyes were tightly closed for most of it, preferring the moment of my imminent death to come as a complete surprise rather than watching it approach head-on.

Much to my surprise we actually survived that drive with nothing more than a soiled pair of Reg Grundies. But I wasn’t going to make that same mistake with Brenda and Kertrude, no way Jose (or Hose B, boom tish). No I decided then and there that it was to be a slightly more sedate entry to the world of steering for them. But where, and how?

See I grew up in a small country town and for most teenagers beyond the reach of suburbia, there are a plethora of near deserted back roads to grind their gears on, as most of my contemporaries did. I, on the other hand, got my learnin’ at the Army Truckies School on a purpose built training road, before being unleased on the general populace of Melbourne.

A quick divergence right about here, if you please. Can I just say, in relation to the drivers of Melbourne……. What the hell? So there I was, a young and enthusiastic 18 year old, steering a six tonne Unimog down some multi-lane highway, with a huge yellow sign with black writing stating “Driver under instruction”. So what do the Melbourne drivers do?? They jump in front, cut you off and hit the brakes seemingly oblivious to the fact that the good old ‘mog could quite easily climb right over the top of them in their little rice-burners, crush them flat and continue forth with barely a bump. Anyway, I managed to avoid them so, points to me.

So, sorry about that. Now back to the story at hand. So in the big smoke, with no deserted back roads or purpose built learning areas, where does one take their nervous off-spring so they don’t pose a risk to the general public? There’s only one place really. The Bunnings car park. Yes, I must’ve spent the better part of nine or ten hours going around and around and around and around the Bunnings car park. For at least the first two hours each of Brenda and Kertrude’s instruction, this circuit was done in first gear, with a terrified girl-teen screaming about how they’re going too fast……

Anyway, eventually all three of them gained enough confidence to get on the road and drive alongside the general populace. This is known as the ‘safe period’. Why? Well they’re still inexperienced enough to be uncomfortable and focussing on the road with all the intensity of a roo caught in the headlights. It’s a wonderful time, they leave about ten car lengths between them and the car in front, if the lights turn yellow they stop and they predominantly stay in the slow lane at about ten k’s below the speed limit. This ‘safe period’ is only there to lull the unsuspecting parent into a false sense of safety, before unleashing the most horrific period of instruction – the ‘overly confident, yet still inexperienced’ phase.

This is when they’ve managed to clock up fifty to sixty hours of relatively incident free motoring and for some reason they form the opinion that they are now good, competent and experienced drives. But they are wrong Dear Gentle reader, oh so wrong.

This is the time they start to drive so far up the clacker of the car in front that it’s actually possible to see the terror-stricken, bulging eyes in the rear vision mirror of the unfortunate driver in front. They start to get conversational while driving, complete with hand gestures and taking their eyes off what’s happening in front as brake lights come on up ahead and there are no signs that Junior has even seen them and considered applying their own brakes, and you end up putting your foot through the passenger side floor in the forlorn hope that an imaginary brake pedal will be of any use, but it’s not, IT’S NOT!….Breathe.

And the worst part of the whole thing is that for each sawn-off savage, you have to endure this constant exposure to near certain death for one hundred hours. Multiply that by three and you get three hundred hours. That’s a combined total of twelve and a half days that I have danced with the Grim Reaper, fluctuating from moments of extreme boredom to extreme terror faster than you can say “watch out for that bus!”

I’m sure that with counselling and the appropriate medication, I’ll finally recover and put this horrific period of my life behind me. Maybe if I try to console myself with the realisation that, when it came time for them to be tested, they all passed first time and therefore it was worth the psychological damage. But only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

May the Gods have mercy on us all.

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