Learning to drive

January 31, 2008

I’m learning to drive. I never really wanted to, but now the lack of powers that be has shown me the way. And not just any which way – no sir, the American Highway. I’m heading out in little over a month, and there ain’t no turning back. I can feel the pressure mounting. It’s a good thing, I guess, but it feels fucking terrible.

I never thought learning to drive would be this hard. I mean, everybody drives. You don’t even have to be literate or anything. A driver’s license isn’t something to be ambitious about. It doesn’t amount to anything in and of itself. It certainly isn’t a valid goal in life. It’s just another of them human rights. A tiny box to be checked off in the curriculum of life. If you don’t have it, people might pity you at best. But then again, people aren’t always right. And if they are, I’m certainly wrong.

So far, my little motorized adventure on the streets of Copenhagen has brought me nothing but black, bad, sad luck. The strictly theoretical part of it was a seemingly endless stream of wearisome late night classes in a dingy back room full of impatient youths and driveling (pun intended) teachers. When we were finally let out onto the road I fell into the hands of a crank driving instructor who drained my bank account, and gave me nothing but bad habits in return. Tough luck, they told me, and put me up with a she-devil. Competent and all, I must admit, but a she-devil nonetheless.

Since then I’ve suffered several nervous breakdowns right there behind the wheel. And all the she-devil does is pull the brakes, and smile at me. I gotta love her for it, though. If she did anything more, I might end up strangling her. That’s how bad it is with me. Sweaty hands desperately hanging on to the wheel, shoulders locked in position just below my ears. And don’t tell me that’s how all newbies drive. I’m not a newbie, you see. Not anymore. I’ve had some 40 plus lessons, you know.

Lately I’ve taken up what you might call a more reflexive attitude towards the whole thing. It began with the realization that I’ve been hitching rides all of my adult life. That’s how I made it around Europe as a teen. That’s how I fared on the roads from Iceland to Tasmania. And it doesn’t stop there. No, sir. It extends all the way into my social, financial, creative, and perhaps even metaphysical turns of life (including “political” on the list would be tautological, considering the representative nature of our democracy). I’ve been hitching rides on the backseat of other people’s lives ever since I was given one of my own.

I’m not confessing for pity and understanding. Hell no. The eternal witnesses of dumb matter and energy knows that I’ve been living it to the full. I’ve shaken the dust, sped down the road, and taken some nasty curves, too. Still, the metaphor rings true. I’m a backseat driver – and a pretty good one at that, never lost track of the map – but still a backseat driver. I guess that’s what’s holding me back. But no more. Or so I like to tell myself.

Today the she-devil pointed out to two things to me. I drive a jerky car, and I don’t look ahead to anticipate the traffic. To get a feel for the flow of driving I must learn to plan my moves in advance. No more sudden starts and stops. No more last minute swerving to avoid the obstacles on the road. It doesn’t take me anywhere in the long run. Rather, it keeps me falling behind. And it sure doesn’t lead to no driver’s license. If I’m serious about climbing into the driver’s seat and getting behind the wheel, I have to learn the rules of the game. No matter how much I despise them – the rules as well as the game. They’re here to stay, and I’m not. The parking-meter just keeps chewing away at my dimes. Sooner or later I’m gonna run out – whether of gas or money doesn’t matter much. I’m gonna run out.

Strange how Jim Morrison should chant “keep your eyes on the road / and your hands upon the wheel”. Perhaps he felt a bit like me. For sure, he crashed. And I don’t wanna end up a wreck. I might, though, if I keep up my rant, and fall in love with my metaphor (I’m a romantic at heart, you know). So I think I’d better park right here. Get in gear, and get a move on. See you on the road!