Carman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Driving)

I’m not a big fan of learner drivers; myself included.

If I can’t trust an occasionally self-proclaimed “adult” to carry a cup of tea up a measly three stairs without scalding himself and the feeble rug (which I am ill-informed on how to vacuum); then why should I trust a child in a 1.5 tonne death machine?

When I lived on the Wild Atlantic Way, my chalet (yes, a chalet, they can have alpine architecture in Galway) was placed on a fork in the road, with no front yard to prevent drunk motorists from crashing through the exterior wall. Not only was this inevitable, it was a frequent occurrence. According to Google Street View, in 2008 the front of chalet was constructed of primarily wood and glass.



When I moved in, it was made with sensible cement and porous plaster, inviting an influx of woodlice to seep in from the shrubbery. An unwelcome orgy of company at night they were.

Thankfully, due to insurance regulations, only cars within ten years of age are allowed circumnavigate the laneways of the coast. When a vehicle would collide with the chalet, it would bounce off like a dense sponge, rather than join me in the sitting room for dinner.

My brother, an Aeronautical Engineer, assured me that if any of the locals did end up crumbling their Volvo (yes, the town shared an alpine car) through my letterbox, he’d repair the house with balsa wood.

“If it’s strong enough for the Wright brothers to fly a plane, it should suit a stationary chalet,” he said.

”Yeah, grand,” I said.

“You’ll hear a ‘Boeing’ sound when they bounce off of it.”

May he rest in peace.

I was on my daily walking commute on the backroads, known locally as “the road”, when an L plate would come bounding down the tarmacadam at a ghastly pace of 27 mph (43 kph for the alpine audience of this piece). I had three options: the ditch, the ditch and the shrubbery (also known as the ditch).

Did you know that the average width of a European car is six foot? I am six feet tall.

If I tripped towards the student of the road and found myself hurtling across the breadth of their mother’s Mondeo, I wouldn’t just be dead; I’d be exactly dead.

If I was carrying a cup of tea, the locals would consider it Dosheachanta. (Adverb: Connemara Irish for inevitable)

However, I myself am now a pupil of the asphalt. So let’s have a gander at my personal notes in the logbook, to see how I have progressed as one of these incompetent Stigs I complain about.

Lesson 1:

OMG I can actually drive! No traffic about yet though. For now, I’m master of the empty car park!

Lesson 2:

School kids around town at 3pm?! Don’t they know this is when I DRIVE!?!?

Lesson 3:

I think the handbrake is broken. It doesn’t go down all the way. Instructor is blaming me for his crappy 2018 BMW X5.

Lesson 4:

Getting the hang of this “roundabout” thingy. Gets a bit dizzy after a while. Handbrake is still broken.

Lesson 5:

The price of the lessons has increased. Wondering if it’s got to do with that burning clutch smell or my instructor’s recent chain smoking?

Lesson 6:

Got a lecture on the difference between “automatic” & “manual” transmission and how I’m driving the “latter”. My instructor can be so rude.

Lesson 7:

I JUST FLIPPED THE CAR TODAY! … IT WAS AWESOME!

Lesson 8:

Just got a lecture on the difference between “flipping a car” & “not flipping a car” and how I should be doing the “latter”. I should give the instructor a lecture in “etiquette”.

Lesson 9:

Accidentally called my instructor “Karen” in a text. He called me “Brenda”. I am uncomfortable with this banter.

Lesson 10:

“Defecating yourself while driving your own car, is always better than sitting in someone else’s piss on public transport.” Wise words of inspiration from my instructor, as he waddled to his house for a change of undergarments. Car no longer smells “Alpine Fresh.”

Lesson 11:

Joyriding is an oxymoron.

Lesson 12:

“Goose dies in a car accident. I lose my trophy to Iceman. We get sent to protect a multi-story car park. I save Iceman and then get back together with Charlotte in a diner. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by The Righteous Brothers plays on the jukebox. That’s when I decide to become a driving instructor.” quipped Karen (the banter stuck), musing on ideas for his memoir.

“That sounds a lot like Top Gun?” I said.

“I was thinking of calling it ‘Top Gear’… Anyway good luck with the test.”


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