Ridley: So after much agonising and practicing I’ve finally passed my driving test. I’d never failed anything before I’d started to learn to drive (I’ve comforted myself with the fact my town has an abnormally high failure rate).
This test was my third and (I’d hoped) my final attempt. The question is, was it the hard work or luck of the draw that had me succeed this time? There are all sorts of stories of people failing one day, applying for another test only a few weeks later and with no extra practicing, passing with, sometimes, the very same instructor. While there was a definite improvement in my driving skills since the last two times I’d attempted it, there were other reasons I think that I might have passed.
I had applied willy nilly for my last two tests, letting the testing centre decide when and where I needed to show up and drive. For this last attempt I decided to listen to the geeky scientist within me and left as little as possible to chance. Narrowing the perimeters (told you, geeky science girl), I insisted I could only do the test in the morning (my last two had been early afternoon, when the town got very busy) it had to be early in the week and near the start of the month (if it is to be believed, there are failure quotas, so at the start of both the week and month, they wouldn’t have to worry about meeting them yet) and I’d ensured that it would be during the summer time (no schools open and all that goes with it: heavy traffic, lollypop ladies leaping out at every chance they get, children darting about and women with baby occupied buggies plowing across pedestrian crossings without a moments notice, aka: Hell, when you’re doing a driving test and your “Reaction to Hazards” boxed will be ticked a hundred times over).
I had a lesson before the test (always do this, I didn’t before, but it’s a great idea!) so I was waiting in the car park of the test centre for it to open. Peering in my side mirror at a car pulling up behind me, my heart sank when I saw what tester turned up for work. He was the guy who’d failed me so miserably the previous time. He disappeared off to get a coffee from the shop and I was praying he wasn’t a grumpy morning person.
When I went in it seemed like he was in a good mood, normally they don’t talk to you except to tell you to do things or explain instructions. So I was pleasantly surprised when a single sentence commenting on the good weather was thrown out.
The roads were lovely and quiet when I did the test. The only times I got marks against me was when one of the traffic lights turned yellow too quickly (and I kept going-baaad idea) and then when some mad yoke pulled out in front of me too quickly from a side road that I was trying to turn into (and to be fair, I think I was distracted as I was just two minutes from the end of the test, and the words ‘Almost finished, almost finished, keep it together’ were flying through my head over and over again.) When i went into the centre, he kept me guessing as to whether I’d passed. He got me to sign a form and I thought ‘This hasn’t happen before, this could be good!’ and then I read the top of the piece of paper which had ‘Certificate of Competency’ on it. Once he congratulated me on passing, he surprised me by chatting away and he was actually quite nice.
Not an hour or two later, I was driving through town with my brother and it was very busy. And I just started to catalogue the various times I would have gotten marks against me and the amount of times I probably would have failed out right. There were many. My brother thought I was crazy when I’d randomly shout ‘mark!’ and ‘fail!’ Which got me thinking. I was the same driver, with the same experience but depending on the time of the day my passing abilities were very different.