Posts Tagged ‘motorway’

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shame.

June 2, 2011

In pursuit of trying to attain a carefree, happy state, I need to try and unburden myself of the baggage that I carry. I think that we all do, and we all have stupid things buried in our past that become a part of us and that resonate as mistakes we are embarrassed by. I generally try and move on and learn from my mistakes, and luckily I can say that each of the following things that I am ashamed of, I have only done once! As long as we learn from our mistakes, that is the important thing. But I want to share 5 of my biggest, most embarrassing mistakes with you so that I can relieve myself of the chips on my shoulder (or try and wipe away the grease these chips have left behind!), and so that we can all see that we ALL do stupid things and we’re only human – unless we fixate on them and don’t move past, we are not defined by our mistakes.

1. Car accident

A month and a half ago, I had become much more confident with my driving, and I had found myself caught behind cars which were driving very slowly and being quite impressive. I never drive aggressively, but I was becoming impatient. It was the Easter holidays, and I was leaving for work on a Wednesday morning. My mother told me to drive carefully, and I brushed it off with a “yeah, yeah”because I thought she was worrying unduly and just doing what mothers do. You know what’s coming next.

Not 10 minutes away from my house, I can’t remember why but I looked down at my phone on the seat next to me for a second. In that second, my hands must have moved on the wheel, I veered into the other lane of oncoming traffic, and I looked up to see my wing mirror being knocked off the car by a van, and although it had swerved to avoid me, the back of the van hit the front wing of my car. Now everyone was fine, the damage was not major, and I just needed to pay for some polish to remove the worst of the scratches, some touch up paint, and a new wing mirror glass to replace the one that had been shattered (the rest of the wing mirror luckily just popped back onto the car in the same way it had popped off).

But I just felt so embarrassed at a) making such a stupid mistake, especially when my phone hadn’t even done anything! My phone stays on silent in my pocket from now on, and I put a playlist on my ipod of what music I will listen to on my journeys prior to setting off!

b) That I could have done much more serious damage, and injured myself or another person. It was bad enough that I had ruined my pretty car (that’s how I felt – now that it’s all touched up, the dent is barely noticeable – especially compared to a lot of cars’ scratches and war wounds) and damaged another person’s vehicle.

c) What would other people think of me having an accident only 3 and a half months after getting a car? Would my friends, my partner, my family risk getting in a car with me again? I was clearly careless, and I was afraid of being judged. Slowly but surely, I have told some of my friends and I was surprised to know that they have nearly all been in a similar position. The most common expression is “oh, you’ve had your first prang!” This makes me feel a little better, because I am not alone. I certainly drive more carefully as a result – I just wish that it hadn’t taken a car accident to make me wake up and be less complacent.

I lost my confidence with driving, and I am only now getting it back. I felt disappointed in myself and doubted my own ability. Mike was absolutely brilliant – he told me to just get in the car, drive to work, and then we went to Halfords and sorted out the door hinge, polished and painted up the dents and scratches, and ordered a new wing mirror glass. And this is the attitude I need to maintain – no matter how disappointed in myself I felt (and I felt pretty low in the days following the accident), I got back on the horse and kept going. Even when I didn’t want to. So that (along with the not looking at my phone while driving) is what I am taking away from this experience.

2. Walking on the motorway in Spain

My friend Jen from LA had come to visit me for a few days during my placement year as an English Language Assistant in San Roque (southern Spain). On the way back from Algeciras on the bus, it seemed like it suddenly got dark and I ended up getting us off the bus at the wrong stop. We didn’t have much change, so rather than wait for the next bus to come along, I decided that we should just walk up to a clearer area and then I would call my flatmate Juan and hope that he would pick us up (which he ultimately did). This involved walking up alongside the motorway – it was unsafe, and Jen was shaking and crying all the way to the roundabout where we met Juan. Although at the time I was scared myself, I felt that we had no option other than to walk – in retrospect, we should have waited at the bus stop for the next bus to come and explained our predicament to the driver. It would have been much safer, and I am ashamed that I put both of our lives in danger, just because I had not enough money and too much pride. I would never make that mistake again, and I was lucky that Jen forgave me easily.

3. Writing ‘SEX’ on my classmate’s art overalls

When I was in year 4 at school, I was fascinated by sex because at that age, it was naughty and forbidden and I was just gathering an awareness of what it was. Because it was naughty and provocative, and my classmate Nick was pissing me off in an Art lesson, I scrawled the word “SEX” in green paint on his overalls. Looking back, this is obviously not a big deal and sort of hilarious – at the time, Nick went to tell our art teacher, who told me I was “evil” and my punishment was to take the overalls home and wash them. Which meant my mother saw, and she asked me why I had written it. I had no real answer, she didn’t talk to me for a day, I returned the clean overalls, my art teacher forgot that I was “evil”, and everything was ultimately fine. But I was ashamed at the time because it was such a shocking thing for a child to write and to do, and being told I was “evil” only made me feel that sex was dirty and naughty, giving me some issues to work through in my teenage years.

4. Mentioning 9/11 to a new student from New York.

When I was in for an induction day for 6th form, we were introduced to a new student who had come over from New York. Her name was Alex, she looked nervous and I decided, in my utmost wisdom, to be friendly and warm towards her. We made polite conversation, and then I decided to put my foot in my mouth and mention 9/11 (which had happened nearly a year ago, by this point), and ask how her family and everyone had coped with it. What possessed me? The poor girl just smiled and flabbergasted, said that everyone was coping and that it hadn’t really affected her overly much. I learned from this that I should think before I speak and that if something seems like it might be a faux pas, then it’s best not to say it. Needless to say, we did not end up being friends.

5. Overreaction at the QCG 2009 Christmas party.

I wrote about this here, so I won’t rewrite it. All I can say is that but a few weeks later, I met Toby (the real love of my life) and I can now look back and see how neurotic I was, and how much I have chilled out. And I can still be pretty neurotic now, to be honest – so when I was younger, I was probably quite crazy!  I have learned to try and keep my composure, to just keep moving in life, and that love is just around the corner, even when it seems most unlikely. And a year and a half on, Mike and I are still close friends and that is the most important thing.

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criticism.

May 13, 2011

So a couple of weeks ago, E (with whom I do a car share for work, alongside two others) gave me a lift halfway home along with another member of staff, H, who normally doesn’t travel with us – however, they were all attending an event in Bristol so we were all travelling together. The first thing that H says to me upon meeting to get in E’s car is “So Alan, how is your lead foot?” I was a bit taken aback, but just smiled and said “It’s all good!” However, this bothered me.

I am a new driver, and I drive at the speed limit, slightly over it on the motorway, but no more than anybody else. My car is small and quite low down (because it’s a cute sporty thing 😀 ) and I can appreciate that I have been getting the hang of slowing down to go around corners a little bit. But I’m getting a lot better. Now, it’s not the comment of having a “lead foot” that bothers me – I have not been caught speeding and in fact, rarely do speed – so it’s nonsense. What irritates me is the fact that E and other people seemingly have chosen to spend their free time criticising my driving.

In the past, I would have simply said “well I guess I just stay on their minds, which is a compliment.” Which is true. But I have noticed that lately everyone seems to be competing with one another for the prize of “being right”. If you mumble your words, there’s somebody there to make fun of it. If you don’t know where a famous landmark is, there is somebody there to not only tell you, but boast their superiority and make you feel small. I appreciate learning things I did not know from other people, but I don’t understand why being right is so important to some people. Nobody is right 100% of the time, and gain-saying others doesn’t make you a richer person. Life is too short – rather than making other people feel small to feel better about myself for an instant or so, I would prefer to work hard on my own life and reap the lasting benefits. Now, I’m not holier than thou – if I know the correct answer to something, it makes me feel proud and I am not afraid to express that. But not at the expense of others’ self-esteem or confidence. At the end of the day, I am my own worst critic and I would rather criticise myself to improve myself, than be hard on others to momentarily appease my own insecurities.

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another driving lesson…

March 18, 2011

So yesterday I drove to Taunton and back for a Sexual Health Regional conference. The conference was interesting (some of it went over my head, but some of it was quite useful and I felt privileged to have been invited!) and I felt triumphant that I navigated my way to Taunton and back home with little difficulty. However, I learned that I drove too fast, at times, on the motorway. I have been told off by my parents, by Toby and by Mike – I know they care about me and I wasn’t in danger – the car was never out of control and I never had to swerve to avoid anything or to correct any drift. I’m talking about speeding.

Now, I was on the motorway driving quite happily in the right lane. I was going a fair amount over the limit, but no faster than the other cars in that lane – a lot of the time, I was keeping up with traffic. However, I still have a big fear that I might have been caught speeding – although I saw no cameras or police vans, and I didn’t see any flashes (let alone be followed and pulled over), I am now paranoid that at some point before the end of the month I am going to get a letter through fining me and putting points on my licence. I probably haven’t been caught, because I expect I am dramatising things in my head and the bad speeding was only for a couple of seconds at a time. I didn’t see any flashes, which are apparently what you look for – even in the daytime sunshine, they are apparently visible. But I feel like just having this fear has made me learn my lesson, because I’m going to dread letters in the post for the next two weeks. This is punishment enough! I can’t afford to pay any fines, and I can’t afford to have my licence taken away – I just got it and I need my car! Not to mention the embarrassment… I am sure I am just being paranoid and dramatic – after all, I don’t have any points at the moment whatsoever and I plan on keeping it that way, especially now. I wasn’t going faster than other cars on the road, and I know that plenty of people go faster than I was and still get away with it. I just wanted to write that it’s really not worth the fear of the next two weeks – which I have to endure – to go too fast. So don’t do it kids. Love y’all.

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Driving tips and tricks

February 23, 2011

Hi all! So I have now been driving for two and a half weeks, and I’m rapidly finding out that the adage “Once you’ve passed your test, that’s when you start learning to drive” is true. I thought that from my first couple of weeks (since I’ve clocked up a fair few miles in a relatively short space of time) I would share my experiences and things that I have learned.

  • Nobody can make you go faster than you want to, no matter how close up behind you they may drive. Don’t rush yourself. Stay in your comfort zone, and you’ll soon get more at ease with your car. If people want to go faster, they’ll overtake – they always find a way!
  • Do not try and do a hill start in 3rd gear. It will not work! So learn where your gears are. It’s best to have a practice drive around the block (over, and over, and over – I did!) to feel at ease with the car before you have to go somewhere specific.
  • Be nice. Sometimes life is plain unfair, but a lot of the time what goes around comes back around. So if someone is waiting to pull out of a junction, and it’s safe, let them. It’ll make you feel better about when you stall your car and the person behind you is patient, or when someone lets you out in front of them.
  • Learn the width of your car. Preferably not by bumping the end of your wing mirror against another car (although you’re unlikely to do any damage – I did it once and escaped unharmed). If in doubt, then stop and let the other driver come through.
  • At a roundabout, even if you think the car on your right will stop because you’re halfway across, don’t assume that they will. Especially if they are boy racers. Technically, even if they are idiots and are driving too fast, they have the right of way so just let them go ahead of you, and soon enough they will be out of your way.
  • Learn your routes, so that you know where likely problem areas are going to be. For example, on the way to work I always slow right down to drive through Tetbury because it has a ridiculous crossroads / roundabout junction, sharp curved roads with cars parked on one side, speed bumps and a lack of people who seem to know the basic Highway Code. So when you know somewhere is usually problematic, be aware!
  • If a pedestrian has arrived at a zebra crossing, even if they’re not near you, slow down so you can stop for them. Otherwise they will glare at you. And technically, they are right (unfortunately).
  • The turning circle on your car will most likely be different to that of the car you learned to drive in. So when you try to do a reverse park, be careful and don’t feel bad if you end up still two miles away from the kerb, or alternatively backing into the kerb. You got your licence – they can’t fail you now! Practice makes perfect.
  • Re. the above point: driving into a space is much easier than parallel parking.
  • If you’re parked on a camber on a downward incline, even when you put your car in reverse, it’ll roll forward a little bit. So leave yourself room to do this. If you have no room, get a kind parent to reverse the car while you push forward on the front to stop the car rolling forward and hitting the car in front. This is the kind of mistake you only make once (I hope!).
  • Learn where the speed cameras are. Once you’re more confident, you will learn when you can speed up a little bit (obviously not too much!) over the limit, and when you need to slow down.
  • Driving on the motorway is just like driving on a dual carriageway. It’s basically driving in a straight line at a high speed for an extended period of time. It’s nothing to be afraid of! Just use the signs along the way to your advantage.
  • Don’t sit in the middle lane on the motorway. It’s irritating.
  • Don’t leave your fog lights on for extended periods of time. Turn them on for foggy patches, turn them off when your visibility improves.
  • Don’t worry about being in the wrong lane. If you realise you are in the wrong lane, keep calm and indicate to get to where you need to be (or follow the road round if there is no alternative and try and loop back as soon as possible). Most of the time, you’ll get an opportunity to filter into the right lane – either because someone takes pity on you or because the traffic passes. I apparently have the directional sense of a wombat and I still get places in the end! Remember: even if you get lost for 5 minutes, it is quicker than getting the bus! And you can always buy a sat nav.

And most importantly: ENJOY driving! We passed our tests, we spend ridiculous money on lessons to get here, we pay a premium for petrol, insurance and the vehicle itself. We earned this. Have fun!