Is it time to hit the road?

Teenage Thoughts

Teenage Thoughts
Madeleine Hughes

SO far this month, I have been working, sunbathing, watching Netflix and doing lots of procrastinating. Watching ‘Stranger Things’, amongst other American series’, I was shocked to see sixteen-year-olds driving! These American teens are not properly driving in my opinion, as automatic cars don’t require much of a driver’s input! Up to now I have been deferring everything related to getting a driver’s licence.
What is the point in learning to drive a manual car here in Ireland when, let’s face it, we will all be driving automatic electric cars, and maybe even self-driving cars in the near future?!
Driving. The mere idea of getting behind the controls of a powerful metal box that could potentially injure (or kill) is downright terrifying to me! Most teenagers I know cannot wait to get behind the wheel, but not me. I much prefer the safety and comfort of the passenger seat!
I can chat, or tune out and bop out to music without having to concentrate on the road and yet get to where I want to go. Why would I want to swap seats and become the driver?!
As I live out in the ‘schticks’, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I will have to learn eventually, that my parents will get sick of ferrying me to work, appointments and to see friends. I have been getting hints from them for months now that it’s high-time that I hit the road, and soon! 
Lately, when going on drives with my parents, they have been asking me to look at what they are doing with the clutch and the pedals and the gearstick. This new development is seriously interfering with the chilled-out passenger vibe I have been cultivating for years.
I try to sneakily change the subject to the weather. Even assisting my parents on the road by checking at junctions to see if anything is coming from the left, I get nervous! My palms get sweaty and my heart bangs in my chest.
I haven’t a clue of the speed of oncoming traffic and get told “ah we could have gone ages ago!” when saying “no don’t go yet!”. I cannot contemplate how people attempt to drive whilst sipping coffee or eating an ice cream! How do drivers conduct conversations on the phone in traffic, yet alone drive in the dark! What about driving in dangerous weather conditions, like torrential rain and wind?
And how can they change the radio station whilst driving? How do you gauge overtaking? I am good at multi-tasking, but the thought of doing these simple actions while being in control of a powerful machine is mad to me! How do people drive in an unfamiliar location? Or drive in different countries on the other side of the road?
Trying to look at the GPS whilst having the other eye on the road and trying not to run over pedestrians (many of whom are literally trying to get killed by walking in front of the car!) is mind-blowing to me.
I might feel comfortable driving down a boreen or a quiet carpark, but what about inevitably progressing to the motorway?
Another ‘con’ of driving for me is the cost – like, have you seen the price of diesel recently? The focus of conversation amongst my friends has switched from the Leaving Cert to car insurance, car tax and waiting for a date for ‘The Test’. Far too adult-related for my liking.
I miss the innocent gossip and silly childish chats we used to have!
I really am clinging onto my childhood years because I know that once I can drive, I won’t depend on parents and adults as much, in fact I would be ticking one of the last boxes on the form to enter adulthood. I know next year I will be thinking about rent and energy prices and I am almost nostalgic for the present! Let’s get back to talking about ‘Stranger Things’ and Harry Style’s latest jumpsuit... Anyone??
I haven’t completed the theory test yet. I have heard stories about people doing it at home, as it was an option to do during lockdown. Instead of going to an exam centre, you could do the test on your computer after a session of intense waving and flapping!
In order to start the test, you had to show the examiner your surroundings by lifting up the computer, showing them the desk, the ground, under the bed, behind the door, just to demonstrate that there was no cheating material available! In a few cases, I heard that after paying for the online test, their WIFI stopped! The thought of having to pass 38 out of 40 questions for this theory test sounds harder than the actual physical one!  
Driving really is different for everyone. Some people my age and younger are raring to get out on the road, and there are others like me, who are not.
Some people start learning at 17, others at 22. I don’t know yet what age I will be comfortable to start, and when I’ll have the headspace to even contemplate it, but I know I should eventually.
I have only tried once to drive so far and, let me put it this way, it wasn’t an encouraging experience (I didn’t cause anyone any harm in the process, don’t worry!).
I decided to wait until I have driving lessons from a proper instructor who won’t teach me bad habits (no offence, Dad!).
Wish me luck as I buckle up and venture into the world of being a driver!