Start Your Engines

August 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s officially the last day of winter – zippity do da! Oh, happy day. As of tomorrow, it’s Sydney in the springtime once more – just the thought of those longer, warmer days lifts my mood. Not that there’s anything wrong with my mood – I slept through from midnight to 6:30 this morning without a single toilet trip or unexplained awakening. For the third night in a row, no less. So that’s enough to put the spring in my step even without the change of season.

It probably helped that I went to bed absolutely shattered. I’m on deadline for the Varuna News, and I’ve also had some more freelance work come in (Hallelujah – apparently foaming at the mouth about the subbing disaster has done no lasting damage). Then there’s my professional driving lessons – I had the first last week, and yesterday’s was two hours long. Two hours! No wonder I needed a little treat afterwards. And I have another one on Thursday morning, just after I file to my editor.

Driving lessons are expensive. As an older learner, it turns out I’m exempt from keeping the logbook – as of last December, that’s only for learner drivers under the age of 25 – but I really, really feel for all those parents out there. Not only is their teenaged child – and just imagine you have three in the house – now required to complete 120 hours of supervised driving before they can go for their provisional licence, but parents are also digging pretty deep if they’re paying for some lessons too (and professional assistance makes sense for a number of reasons, not least being that 10 professional hours of tuition equals 30 logbook hours). I’m on a 5-hour “deal” that cost $330. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty steep. There’s a test preparation lesson I’ll probably do in another month or so, and that’s another couple of hundred right there. And is it worth it? Well, I have mixed feelings so far.

It’s been awesome for parking instruction. This guy has a formula for parallel parking that is unbeatable. If only I could remember it. But still, it’s foolproof. He has the formula pasted to his dashboard, and I’m going to do the same thing in the Welsh Dragon. Perfect parks, every time. And the same with reverse parking, although I only did that between two parked cars for the first time yesterday, and I need to practise more. That’s all quite nifty – and well worth the lessons. But $66 an hour…? You know, I’m not remotely convinced yesterday’s lesson was worth $132. I drove around the neighbourhood and surrounding suburbs for a while, did some three point turns down a side street, reverse parked in a lot, parallel parked down a residential street, and drove around some more. Meanwhile my instructor chatted – non-stop – about his real estate history, his family tree, his new toy, and his preferred final resting place (he’d like to have his ashes scattered out on the bombora by his surfing buddies).

At last week’s lesson (1.5 hours), I found all this talk profoundly distracting. There’s some driving instruction scattered in there too, don’t get me wrong, but mainly he’s just nattering away about whatever takes his fancy. Like the fact that one of his surfing buddies is a cage fighter. This guy named his son Tyson after you-know-who, but apparently little Tyson (we drove past him, and apparently my instructor is currently teaching this kid to drive, even though to me he seriously looked about 10 years old) is a lover, not a fighter. And indeed he was talking to two foxy blondes as we went by. Then there’s the tattoos on young girls: they might look sexy now, my instructor told me, but just you wait twenty years, when that pretty butterfly on a pert teen bosom has transformed into a gigantic terradactyl. He’s got a point.

Anyway, this week I knew what was coming, and I think I almost courted some of the chat as a way of testing myself. There will be distractions, after all. A crying baby springs to mind. And I’ll have to be able to cope with them. It’s made me realise that Llew and I have been conducting our lessons in near silence, bar instruction, and this guy’s incessant chatter came as quite a rude shock. Can’t you see I’m driving?! Now I think he’s doing me a favour – maybe it’s even tactical. Maybe it’s a deliberate strategy. Or maybe he’s only talking because he’s comfortable with the way I’m driving. Or maybe – and this is the most compelling option – he’s a good old-fashioned blabbermouth who loves a captive audience. He was a cab driver for 30 years before this gig, and after the horrors of that job – the joys of regaling trapped passengers notwithstanding – this must seem like very easy money indeed.

It can’t hurt. I’m not sure it’s worth $330, but it can’t hurt. And now it’s time for me to start punching keys to earn dem beans, so I’ll see you guys tomorrow.



  1. Pete said,

    Sounds like excellent practice if you can drive with blabbermouth there gabbing all the while. But I also flinched at the $330. And congrats on all the freelance work.

    Happy Spring to all three of you!

    • doctordi said,

      I’m glad it’s not just me, Pete. It’s expensive, right?? I seem to be complaining about the price of things a lot recently… I guess I am feeling very budget conscious, what with my own patchy freelance performance so far this year, and of course the money vacuum of pregnancy and impending parenthood. But don’t you think we’re just being STUNG right across the board these days?? How did everything get so, so expensive?

      I heard back from a potential mentor today – FOUR GRAND for her services (cue hysterical laughter).

  2. Grad said,

    Wow, what happened to the good old days! Actually I did take lessons from a professional, but I doubt they cost my parents more than $5 an hour. I learned on a Nash Rambler, and always had a soft spot for that make and model – now as extinct as a dodo. But, my first time behind the wheel happened thus: I was at a Halloween Party at my best friend’s house. My dad came to pick me up, but he had apparently spent a little to much time at a corner tavern. He must have tripped and hit his head on something because he also had a small cut on his temple. I assured him we’d be a whole lot safer with me driving for the first time than with him driving. He had enough sense to concur. He had a beautiful new dark green Oldsmobile with power brakes. He kept praising me for how softly I was braking. Power brakes can be very tricky for the uninitiated. The next morning, when the fog in his head cleared, he realized I’d nearly wiped out the brake pads because I’d been riding the gas and the brake at the same time. Nevertheless, my braking was superb!

    • doctordi said,

      I think I’m living in a fantasy of another time myself, Graddikins – I thought it would cost about $25 an hour. WILDLY off the mark. Even $40 an hour wouldn’t have seemed out of order, but $66 seems grossly overpriced, much like cab fares in Sydney, of which we should start saving a fortune once I can drive but still can’t drink, assuming I am able to breastfeed.

      The Oldsmobile sounds LOVELY – and straight in the deep end probably isn’t a bad way to learn. I’m just not sure it’s possible anymore. Certainly in Australia we’re over-regulated and rule-restricted to within an inch of our lives. Boring.

  3. Grad said,

    Di, if lessons had cost $25 an hour my parents would never have been able to afford them for me. Remember, a pack of cigarettes (yes, I know, I shouldn’t have but I did…on the sneak) in ’65 cost about 25 cents, gas was also about 25 cents a gallon. They still had attendants in those days and I’d roll down the window and ask for “a dollar’s worth” and then drove around on it for days. Regular comic books cost 10 cents and the big ones cost 25. A coke, ditto – a dime. A movie, about 25 cents (and most of them were double features to boot!) It’s ridiculous, really, what things cost and not being an economist, I could not tell you how we got to where we are. (Although at the risk of having rotten eggs thrown at me, it might have something to do with unions…but what do I know?)

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    He’s probably just a chatterbox, but it is good training for kids’ endless talk while you are driving.

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