I will let you in on a little secret: It took me about 70 lessons before I finally passed my driving test - on the 3rd attempt. You might think that 70 lessons isn't that embarassing - but what if I told you that these were all in automatic cars?
Clearly, I am not a brilliant driver, not even a great one. I am, however, a perfectly average driver, if your average driver finds parked vehicles and bollards particularly challenging. Although I passed my test in 1996, I hardly drove at all until 2012. During my 2.5 years of driving, I have managed to hit 3 parked cars and 2 bollards. Both the bollards and one of the cars were in the same supermarket. One bollard started swaying alarmingly, though in my defence, it wasn't actually secured to the ground in the first place. I dutifully confessed to the guy whose job it was to assess the damage (there was none), and added that my long-suffering husband had explained, through gritted teeth, that I do not need to get quite that close to the pavement every time I park. "You are just a considerate driver" he offered kindly - implying that I was merely leaving plenty of room for others behind me.
Hitting other vehicles is less considerate. The most mortifying incident happened in the same supermarket: My daughter and I were discussing how a local paper had written about an elderly lady ploughing into the shop's windows a few weeks earlier. We both felt sorry for the poor woman, whose bad driving had been reported for all to read. We then got in the car and I started reversing. At this point, I really should have checked my rear-view mirror. As I did not, however, the scraping sound took me by surprise. Prompted by this, I finally checked the mirror and saw, to my horror, a lovely little scooter being pushed along by our burly car. As I stopped and got out, several employees came running towards us. They had spotted the accident because I had been considerate enough to do it right in front of the massive café windows, for everyone to see. Although there was no damage, I have noticed that the scooter owner, rather wisely, parks on the pavement now.
As we drove off, my daughter piped up: "Everyone in the café was looking. It was really embarrassing". I had suspected as much, which is why I had carefully avoided looking over. "Will we be in the news now?", she carried on. "No", I said, glumly. "How do you know?" "Because we haven't caused any damage". I didn't mention my bruised ego - this wasn't a good time to discuss self-esteem with a 6 year old.
A few months later, I was leaving my friend's house at midnight. This time, I was suitably alert. "No", I thought to myself, "I'm not going to hit the car in front of me, I am no fool." Which is why I successfully reversed (I always worry I will confuse "drive" with "reverse"), started turning confidently in the road, and then drove into the neighbour's car opposite. Ah.
I panicked and ran back inside my friend's house. As we couldn't talk to the owner straight away, we went outside to assess the car ourselves. "It doesn't look like there is any bad damage", she said soothingly, carefully touching the rear light I had just hit. At this, half the light fell out. It turned out, that I had also scratched the bumper. While it did cost me money, at least the owner was kind and understanding - just like my friends: After a few years' practice, I can now drive past them and wave simultaneously, without veering dangerously towards them. A fact I am sure they are very grateful for...