„Oh boy, it was a huge space-ship looking like VW Passat which was parked facing the wall. So obviously to drive it out, I had to reverse. On the gear shift, for reversing it was shown the same direction as for the first gear. I lifted the gear shift (as I did so many times with all the cars that I had driven before) and moved the gear shift towards left and then forward, believing that the car will get into reverse mode. Well, it didn’t. It kept getting closer and closer to the wall.”
I got my driving license while I was still in the early years of undergraduate. Back then I had the time to study for this and it was fairly cheap to do the driving school in Romania (especially if you compare the Belgian fees for driving schools and test ). Then after I succeeded my driving license test, I just kept my driving license in the pocket and displayed it as a “good to know” item on the CV. I had no car of my own and dad was never around to drive his car, hence I did not practised my new skills.
I continued to be a pedestrian for another 7 years, both in Romania and Belgium. When I moved to Brussels, there was really no other mean of transport available than the public transportation. Then I got a job wich came with a company car. My driving skills were very rusty (if not completely vanished). Hence I decided to take some additional refreshing driving classes in order to face the new driving challenge. I took about 7 driving classes while I was in Romania for a short visit (it’s cheaper there) and then returned to Brussels. I still had some time before I started my new job job ( with the company car). I started practising “driving” with my fiance’s car – a British – right hand drive 10-year-old Rover 25. It was not the best choice for practising a fresh skill, but I had no option.
On the first day of job, I received the key of the company car. It was a huge space-ship looking like VW Passat which was parked facing the wall. So obviously in order to drive out, I had to reverse. On the gear shift, for reversing it was shown the same direction as for the first gear. I lifted the gear shift (as I did so many times with all the cars that I had driven until then) and moved the gear shift left and forward, believing that the car will get into reverse mode. Well, it didn’t. It kept getting closer and closer to the wall. I looked again on the gear shift, repeated the action, but I was only getting close to the wall. Come on, I was about to hit the wall and I had no clue how on earth that car could reverse. Than I thought of a change of tactics. So instead of lifting the gear shift, I pushed it. And the miracle happened! the car was reversing and my space-ship looking like VW Passat was moving away from the threatening wall.
Another thing about the space-ship I was driving: it had no regular hand break in the middle, but a button on the dashboard on the left-hand side. I only discovered that button thanks to my fiance and literally believed that car had no hand break for a few days.
Every drive for the first 15 days was like an adventure for me. I remember that I was so stressed that at the end of a drive, my heart was beating like crazy and had to breathe slowly for a while.
Obviously at work my colleagues (mostly men) noticed by unsure way of driving. And obviously started making jokes on me. I joked with them for a while until this joking thing started to become annoying. They did not know that I was basically still a driving “learner” and although I was getting better, their jokes kept on and on. Until one day until I got really angry with a co-worker who had made jokes on me and basically bullied me in front of other colleagues. I told him off later on and then his apologies or accepted though not pardoned.
Nowadays, after a year and a half of driving, I got a lot better. I even became quite an aggressive driver, as my fiance puts it, and I can easily sneak in and out in the rush hour traffic from Brussels. I can even state that my parking skills are actually better than the ones of many men drivers that I saw around. I still have lots to learn (how to control a car on snow and ice for instance), but my heart doesn’t beat like crazy anymore after a drive.