One of my sisters is learning how to drive.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, oh yay, that's grand, you'll be able to scab lifts off her the whole time! Yay! And yes, I do. And you're thinking, sure isnt that well enough for you, don't you have the easy life? But I don't think you quite understand the risks I take, the dangers I face everytime I accept the offer of a seat from Salty the Danger-Driver. Well buckle up lads, coz its quite a journey from when she first drove a car to where she is now.... and its about to get bumpy...
Not one of the naturally spacially-aware members of society, one of the biggest challenges for my sister Salty was remembering that there were two sides to the car. And they weren't both the drivers side. As a result, Salty often drove too close to gates on the passenger side of the car, leaving plenty of room for her own side, but forgetting that being aware of your own side of the car was the easy part. On one particular, fateful day, my brother was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, and my sister was driving laps around a large shed and yard in a sort of circuit we had mapped out. Now normally this circuit was kept relatively clear of...well.. anything that could be crashed into. But this day, something was different. My father had moved the plough to the side of the circuit!! (And by the side, I do mean off the track that should have been driven on, leaving more than enough room to pass by.) As Salty approached the plough, my brother reminded her to watch out for the plough, and she answered that she was. But he repeated it more sternly. And she repeated her answer. And suddenly, he began to yell, the plough! The plough! The fucking plough! Finally grabbing the steering wheel and wrenching it to the right to narrowly avoid the passenger side of the car and his own person being, well... ploughed. And Salty giggled nervously and said, oh, I thought I'd left enough room. She had. On her own side.
Now if you thought that a narrow brush with a farm implement like that would be the necessary kick-in-the-arse that my sister needed to concentrate more and develop that whole-car awareness, you were most definitely wrong. Not long later, in a little circuit journey by herself, Salty managed to crash the little Toyota Starlet at 10km/hr into a 12 foot wide gate, when she panicked upon seeing that she had taken the turn a bit wide and was going to crash straight into it and froze. Neglecting to brake. And crash straight into it she did. On the passenger side. But it's ok. She wasn't hurt. Because she had left herself enough room.
Now as you can imagine, this put poor Salty out of action as far as driving was concerned for quite a while. And in the meantime, she went to the merry old land of Oz for a year and a half, and when she returned to these fair shores, and returned to the back-arse of nowhere without independent travel to work or anywhere at all in fact, she quickly took it upon herself to sign up for some lessons. And she took some lessons. And got insured on my mothers car. And used to drive to and from work with my mother beside her. Until the day she drove home, took our driveway too fast, panicked, hit the accelerator instead of the brake and drove my mothers car right up the steps to the porch door. Yes, the car was damaged.
More lessons came and went and my sister was trusted with a little beep-beep of her own! A Renault Clio. Sports model. Partly coz if she crashed that she'd have to pay for the damage herself, and partly because having to get to and from work at different times during the day, at the same time as my mother retired and needed her own car so she could be free to go galivanting around the countryside doing God knows what at God knows what time of the day meant that Salty really did need her own car.
And guess what. She hasn't crashed it. Yet.
Although, there has been some scares. For example, on several occasions while I've been in the car, she's made some mistake or other that I will not have noticed. Until she will point out the mistake she just made to me and I will remember that she's a silly-billy and sit less comfortably for the rest of that journey. My personal favourite time has to be the time when, and in fairness to her she did warn me that she was tired, but she literally fed me a blow by blow account of all of her mistakes along a journey home at night time in the semi-darkness.
For example, as we passed a cross-roads she turned to me and said,
> Oops, almost forgot to dip my headlights there
And just as I processed the danger level of that statement, she corrected herself
> Oh no, I meant stop. I almost forgot to stop!
I don't know what worried me more. The fact that she doesn't know the difference between dimming her headlights and stopping, or the fact that she almost forgot to stop!
And as I contemplated that fact, we flew over a speed-bump, bumping our arses, and she found it necessary to exclaim
>Speedbump! Sorry, didn't see that there!
With a happy chirpy note to her voice.
Other comments to that tune on different days have included things along the lines of:
>Oops, almost ran us off the road there.
> Ooh I took that roundabout waaaaaay too fast, didn't I! Definitely should've stopped there!
And today's gem, which was said more in a hypothetical, imaginary sense than realistic... and with slightly more menace than maybe made me feel comfortable:
>You realise that if I ran us off the road on your side right now and into one of those poles, it'd be you who got hurt and not me...... Remember that. What if I swerved here? Hmm?
Which, considering the fact that one of the neighbours always protectively raises his arms in front of his face when she passes him in her car.. regardless of whether he is driving himself at the same time or not.. does make a girl wonder how many of those seemingly offhand comments are as innocent as they come across and how many are sly reminders of the fact that she holds the power when she's driving the car. (And I'm never allowed to drive it, so it will always be her, just to clarify.. she has actually specified that. Not even over her dead body. Not even if there's a fire.)
And then you remember that this is a girl who got lost driving us home one day and took us down a narrow road with nowhere to turn back. Until we reached a GAA pitch and she decided to pull in there and turn in the carpark and go back the other way. However the carpark turned out to be at the end of an avenue, but it was a narrow avenue so she had to keep going til she got to the carpark to turn and there were people training and arriving to train who saw this apparent cruise-by of their session and must have wondered who the stranger with the L-Plate who drove slowly by the pitch, turned in their carpark and drove slowly back again was.
And it's the girl who collected me from my boyfriends house, drove from there to the local town to drop off my brothers girlfriend and asked in a confused tone on entering the town... Where are we? Its not a large town. And we have been driving through it and in and out of it and up and down it for as long as I can remember.
But sure listen, she's a grand driver. And isn't she better than she was. And don't you go to mass on Sunday and pray for your safety and always wear your seatbelt and never go to sleep in the car while she's driving, and make sure that in your own head you're driving the car yourself so you can be on high alert..... just in case.....
And don't we all love a bit of adventure now and then....