When I was about eight-years-old, I got hit by a car coming around a bus.
Admittedly I stupidly jumped off at a bus-stop, ran to the back of the bus, turned and ran across the road behind the bus. The two previous days I had made it across successfully and ran into the front-yard of my Auntie Coby.
On the third day, I was less successful. A car driving past caught me at hip level, pushing me 20 metres up the road. When it stopped, my legs were under the car, I was badly bruised, yet I had almost nothing wrong with me.
Now aged 42, I now notice a slight ‘click‘ in my left hip when I move my leg when lying in bed – but my movement is unrestricted and there is no pain. At age 8 I was incapacitated for about 2 weeks. I remember the ice-cream lunches whilst I had rest and recuperation.
That is where my fear of cars began.
When I was aged 10, I made a life-change so huge for a kid that age.
Basically, I made the choice to live with father and his new family rather than staying with my mother and little brother. There were other consequences for making that choice, yet I feel no regrets for it. You can’t regret, it doesn’t make a difference. And realistically, choices to improve our environment and circumstances are never mistakes.
It was this choice that maybe enhanced my dislike of cars.
For the next few years, my new step-brothers and I were lucky enough to be living on the river just the other side of Tailem Bend. The property was big enough that we could drive Dad’s old van (though very much in working condition at the time) around the top paddock, doing laps around a well-worn track.
By the time we were almost sixteen both my brothers were experienced drivers, but for some reason I had shied away from getting behind the wheel of a car.
Each time my chance came up, I’d balk at the concept of attempting both hand and foot control of a vehicle, and then remembering that it consumed fuel, oil, water. I couldn’t grasp steering and footwork simultaneously. Consequently life-studies took a tumble. I do remember being happy mostly, but I probably wasn’t.
Whilst I was the oldest of the three boys, I often felt the youngest. Mostly because I was always reliant on others to get me from A to B. My self-confidence was influenced by my inability to do what others took for granted.
Finally we reached Y12 High School. I rode the big yellow bus from Tailem’ to the ‘Bridge and back every morning and night, never realising that one day I might need to drive that same stretch of road. I never have, yet know it intimately. We commuted to Adelaide regularly for shopping and grandparents, so I knew that stretch of road well. Yet have never driven it.
During the final swatvac-days of High School I was invited to be a passenger in a car with lads I’d spent the last few years. We took off toward Monarto, but on a quick bend in a road a large rock appeared out of nowhere. The driver swerved to avoid … somehow the whole car ended up on an embankment to the left of the road. All seemed fine, so he drove along the paddock beside the road. Suddenly we realised the car wasn’t moving. After getting two big lads out of the back of the car, it was quickly ascertained that we had hooked a fence on the axle and it was rolling-up backwards under the car. Weirdest thing we’d ever seen. Pity I never had a camera with me! As far as I recall, we had to walk back into town. I don’t think anyone said anything.
The following day, with the same lads, in another car we were traveling across an open paddock, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, hurtling down a road that dropped into a 45degree road down to the river.
At the speed we were going, the car left the road. Momentarily, I swear there was a semi-silence. The engine was still going, but there was no noise of tyres on marble-sized gravel. Then the car hit the road. KASLAMMMM…. and a lot of swearing, wheel-wrenching before finally coming to a stop near the bottom of the hill. Again, we all piled out to survey the damage. I honestly don’t remember what happened next. I only recall walking for what seemed forever. But I had gotten used to doing that.
That was 1986. Our lives when in different directions, and I never saw those boys again.
In 1989 I was living in Adelaide, and I was a bus-catcher-officinado. I could tell you which buses would you get from Mitchell-Park to the Adelaide CBD and out to Prospect, plus many other suburbs. This was despite how incredulously-late the buses were known for being. I remember many times waiting outside of the Marletston TAFE for public-transport that just never turned up.
In the early 1990’s the CES paid for about six driving lessons, but they never followed through to the end, thereby wasting my time and their money. This was when learners were taught how to reverse around a corner and reverse a trailer along a street.
I remember telling an instructor not to bother teaching me reverse around the corner as I would NEVER do it. I’d sooner drive around the next corner and find another way out, or do a 2 or 3 point turn to get out. I failed his idea of driving, but won my case. These lessons are no longer taught, for obvious reasons. I doubt I was the cause it being disbanded, but I like to think that plenty of trainees would have agreed with my argument.
Between 1990 and the Y2K, my life went through a bunch of ups and downs, all the typical ones for a young man. One on occasion with my first GF driving us, we had watched my father’s little sports car (the Mini Jem) driving ahead of us catch fire at stop-lights and him jump out to put out the flames. It’s fibreglass and the brakes were cloth. The car is setup for long distance at high speed, not for a stop-start environment. When he brakes, he double-declutches before the car comes to a slow stop. But if the traffic around him is too bunched up, he has to brake at high speed.
Most young drivers don’t understand why this is bad for their car, which means they pay horrendous amounts of money on new tyres and brakes. Or they deliberately do it to piss off their neighbours and get some kind of pride from their bogan mates. Yeah, I said it.
So that effected my desire to drive. I never liked the idea of dieing slowly in a burning car.
During the 90’s, I had asked my father to teach me to drive. We were living next to a new estate that had roads, street lights and curbs – but no housing. It was ideal. I remember we had two Mini Mokes, one of them bought for me. (Yes, I now REALLY regret never getting my license!). I really like Moke’s so it was ideal to teach me to drive in it.
My dad is a brilliant driver, he has driven at Bathurst at least once, he has participated in Hill-Races here in Adelaide. But his driving prowess regularly scares the bejuzus out of me. He is an offensive-driver, not a defensive driver. I’ve been in the car many times where he has used his skills to ensure OTHER drivers make choices that fit what he wants to do.
Example: Most drivers don’t want to hit another car. So he would push the nose of his car into traffic when leaving a side-street onto a main road, then the other cars would stop, let him in and everyone would be happy. He’s very good at it. That I have learnt well.
But I won’t deny it: Fathers are never the best teachers. His offensive style is not the best method to teach a learner. Whilst I was happy to push the car to its limits at his instruction, he never realised it was actually scaring me to death. I had panic attacks whilst driving. And it’s only now that I write this article that I realise that was precisely what I was doing. I couldn’t cope with having to deal with all the controls in the car to remember, plus a person sitting beside me ranting about engines, steering, clutch, handbrake, steering at 2 and 6 pm, mirror usage and all the other crap I had to know SIMULTANEOUSLY.
I still remember the day I brought my lovely Mini Moke to a screeching stop and yelled “ENOUGH!”, got out and walked home. Thankfully the walk home was across a dirt field, through a hole in a fence and into our street. His drive back would take 20 minutes. I think he did it in 10 minutes, as I could hear the car the whole way as he took each corner. We probably didn’t speak for week, and my car rusted to the ground over the next few years. A $6,000 beautiful car that had to be towed away and sold for parts. That was a sad time, and I actually regret my decision.
Writing this has been good for me.
Because now I want to drive.
Not just because I have business ideas that require transport. Not only so my wife will know someone can get her around when she is pregnant or otherwise incapacitated. That’s fairly important now.
Mostly because I want my self-confidence back. I want to regain the placid happy state I had before I was 10 years old. Yes, if I persist, it will happen.
Earlier this year I was gifted a substantial amount of money, to help me a few things for myself. This person has done a great thing for me. Whilst my original ideas were to get an Apple iPhone or iPad or another new lens, it has recently dawned on me that it is seriously a good opportunity to get something that can make a real difference to my life. Not only will it enable me to pursue my photography projects, being able to drive will enable me to see a little more of the world around me.
My plan is to get my license before December 2011.
Some other small projects on the work-front need to be resolved, but they won’t stop me from organising preliminary details. To make it easier for my followers to watch my progress, I will tag related articles with #drivingstephencrazy
If you read this, thanks for understanding. This article has been more for myself, to release a few demons, but it’s also been for others who cannot comprehend why I don’t drive. For all of you about to say/ask (and I know you will because I’ve heard it before) “But you could be better them! Why let a few bad eggs destroy your life?“, my answer is: “It only takes one bad egg to destroy a good omelette. You only need one car to kill. Just one bad driver can destroy a good life.”
With that in mind, I trust you’ll all drive safely once I get on the road. Please, for the sake of your children, drive like you care about everyone’s lives, not just to protect yourself.
I’m notorious for remembering and reciting stories from my youth vastly different to the way my family remembers. This isn’t to say that any of this is incorrect, it’s just the way my mind experienced it all. I may change these stories slightly, but mostly it’s staying the way I remember it was!
i enjoyed reading this because i relate to alot of this stuff. i got my licence recently (after going through the whole set of lessons twice). i’m still looking forward to confidently and seamlessly driving a manual shift car and i understand the apprehension…all the best
You strike me as the type of person who’s pretty determined once he sets his mind to it so I’m sure you’ll do this too. One day you’ll look back and wonder why you hadn’t done it earlier.
Thanks Jen, thanks for the affirmation. I do look forward to when I can travel without relying on other people!