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ESL Story: Driving lessons

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"Confidence, competence and control. That''s what they''re really looking for." These were the words that were drummed into me with each driving lesson I took with my instructor, Jock... The three "C''s" he called them. My throat was dry and there was a nasty sweat in the palms of my hands. There was a slight flutter in my knees too. And the reason for all this – I was taking my final lesson the evening before the driving test... The car seemed very impersonal that evening as I tried hard to remember all that Jock had told me during the course. It was as if it had decided to be as unhelpful as possible.

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All my friends had either passed or given up. I''d had endless tips of course. People who had got their driving licence would sit back and make smug comments like: "There''s nothing to it really. Just drive carefully." "Well, I was lucky actually. I used to ride a motor bike." That wasn''t very much encouragement and certainly didn''t exactly boost my confidence. After all, you''re so alone at the wheel. And then – "You''re staying too long in third." I could hear Jock''s voice nagging me.

That was the thing about Jock. He was friendly but he was very hot on any lapses. A lot of people never take lessons. They try to make you feel stupid because you have had to pay an arm and a leg for your lessons. They''d say things like: "I grew up with cars, you know. Driven since I was a kid." Well, I am an idiot as far as mechanical things are concerned. I imagined that driving a car was as straight-forward as steering a lawn mower between the flower beds. I''d mastered that when I was a child. Just imagine coming out with a remark like this: "Well, I was lucky actually I used to use a lawn mower." As a learner driver you''re treated as an outcast by other drivers on the road mainly because you''ve got a large red-lettered ''L'' stuck on the back and the front of your car. You gain a little confidence, however, by the fact that you can''t actually see the L-plates yourself.

It was getting dark as we returned to the school of motoring. I relaxed in the knowledge that there was a good night''s rest between now and the test. There was a policeman in front, doing things just like the friendly looking one in the Highway Code. "He''s asking you to stop," whispered Jock, using the dual controls. Jock and I parted tensely, having arranged the time to meet for the next day. It was all right; I passed. Jock couldn''t contain himself with joy. He''d been getting very edgy towards the last. Funny really, I mean I wasn''t that bad. I suppose he was getting on a bit and showing his age... Still, all things considered, it was after all only my 10th attempt.

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Next:ESL Story: Learning to teach

Author: Alan Townend

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