Sunday, October 7, 2012

Life Lessons from Learning to Drive

Sometimes 'sucking it up' and giving oneself no choice but to do something is the best way to learn.

Learning how to drive was a grueling process for both myself and my parents. Depth perception is not my strong suit. Nor is time perception. On top of this, operating machinery is also not something that I'm naturally adept at. Combine these shortfalls with a fear of damaging an expensive piece of machinery or injuring someone? Young Drivers certainly had their work cut out for them when I enrolled in driving lessons 10 years ago.

I'm now an ok driver. I know my weak points and make up for them by being extra cautious. My caution has also had a negative sub-product: I haven't learned how to drive manual cars.

About 2 years ago I decided that I should have basic knowledge on driving 'stick' in case I wind up in an emergency situation, for example taking someone to the hospital or dropping a drunk driver off at home.

I've made some feeble attempts, always stopping when I stalled repeatedly or started feeling stressed out.

Since most cars are manual here and public transport is relatively slow and uncomfortable, I've spent a lot of time as the passenger in stick shift vehicles.

Daniel's car

My boyfriend also happens to have an unusually large, beast of a diesel SUV which I would drive occasionally. Always with someone in the passenger seat, I would nervously engage the clutch, start the car and proceed to freak out for the short distance I had to drive.

'I can't get into 3rd!

Why is it stalling?

I'm not used to driving on the left side of the road!

Where is the blinker and how can I turn of the d*mn windshield wiper?

I would usually arrive at destination a few minutes later feeling panicked and beg the passenger to drive back.

The other morning I had a huge load of materials to bring into work. No one else was available to drive so I had no option but to drive the manual beast myself.

I shook off my nervousness, got into the car and just went. The odd part? When I was driving by myself, I wasn't scared and didn't even stall.

I knew that I had no choice but to make the thing move and when I couldn't get into third gear, I just put the gear back into second and tried again. I started finding myself listening to the car and seeing what was needed instead of panicking. I found myself driving confidently desbite being in the capital city of the most densely populated country in Africa (read: people everywhere).

The next morning I realized that tank was close to empty. Worse yet, Malawi is going through another petrol and diesel shortage meaning that everyone was scrambling to find a filling station with a bit of fuel left. I drove all the way to the first station, waited in the queue and was told that the diesel had just run out when I got to the front of the line. The attendant thought that there might be a shipment coming in next door so I rushed off, fought my way into the lot and found that the shipment wasn't coming. There a man told me that they still had diesel in one place: the dreaded bus depot.

Like many Southern African bus depots, the depot in Lilongwe is crowded, hot and smelly. Vendors, chickens and goats are milling about everywhere. Buses and transport vans are all honking, yelling and weaving their ways through the constantly shifting maze of chaos. I had no choice but to haul myself back into the beast and step on the gas. 

LLW bus depot

I arrived at the depot and started weaving through the chaotic mass. Women carrying unbelievably large buckets on their heads, fruit vendors and goats took no interest and refused to veer off course as I honked and yelled my way through the crowd. I got into the line, got cut off, snuck onto the other side of the queue and had angry men with jerry cans hit the side of the car. I finally made my way to the front, coerced the attendant to stop taking bribes for filling jerry cans and help me out.

I arrived home sticky with sweat, my heart pumping from the adrenaline. The car however was perfectly in tact and full of diesel.

If there had been a passenger beside me, I would have freaked out and probably landed in the nearest parking lot. Because I didn't have any option but to push forward and trust in my own abilities, I learned that I was capable of something that I never though that I could do.

1 comment:

  1. Driving is the control and operation of a land vehicle, such as a car, truck or bus. I am fully impressed with this post.
    Driving Instructor