Today, at 1 pm, I have a driving lesson. I last tried to learn 17 years ago. I write about the fiasco in The Art of Failing (published next week …)
My inability to drive was for a long time the biggest source of conflict between me and Mrs McG. It wasn’t so much having to stay sober at parties that annoyed her – unlike me she doesn’t need to be three quarters drunk before she can have a normal conversation. It was more the long drives on holiday, or to see family.
I don’t know why I’ve never learnt. Or, rather, the reasons are so many that it would be tedious to list them. But one might begin with idleness, a fear of mowing down pensioners on zebra crossings, a reluctance to enter the adult world, the rival pleasures of cycling and the desire to get three quarters drunk at parties so I can have a normal conversation.
And my two feeble attempts to learn ended in fiasco. The first was with someone called Tony, whom I flagged down as he drove by in his driving instructor car around West Hampstead. He was a cool guy, and I quite enjoyed our first lesson. He kept asking me to pull over, while he popped out to chat with friends. After the third stop, I realised that he was a drug dealer, and so I reluctantly ended our relationship. My second and final instructor, Stevo, had been recommended by a friend of Mrs McG. Stevo had taught the friend to drive a decade earlier. He turned up in a 1980s Yugo 45, a design based on an early 1970s Fiat 127. (I can’t drive but, being a boy, I know something about cars; and being me, I have an interest in shit things, and failures of all kinds.) The instructor almost entirely filled the interior. He must have weighed 27 stone. His right thigh and buttock overflowed his seat, and I had to feel around under the marshmallowy flesh to find the handbrake. I could have been wrong, but I thought he enjoyed this, though it might have been in the way a buffalo likes to have his ears and nostrils cleaned by an ox-peckers, rather than a sex thing.
When we ground into motion, Stevo directed me towards the northern suburbs. I’d never managed more than fifteen mph on my trip with Tony, but soon I was on a dual carriageway, and had hit fifty.
I looked over at Stevo.
He seemed to be fast asleep.
‘Er, hello,’ I said, a little panicked.
He jerked awake. ‘Just resting my eyes,’ he said. ‘Can you pull in here…’
It was a drive-in McDonalds. He extruded himself from the Yugo, ordered two big Macs, and talked me through my errors, before we moved on to his failed marriage and successful diabetes.
I can’t remember who pulled the plugs before lesson 2. It’s quite possible he died.
Anyway, that was all years ago, and I really need to do something to help restore my depleted testosterone reserves. It’s learn to drive or get into cage fighting.