Truth is, I never imagined myself buying a car. Much less, driving a car. I promised myself that I would only buy a car once I could also afford to hire a personal driver. So, I had to make a big adjustment when my parents finally decided to get a family car. My father wanted a Mitsubishi Montero Sport, my mother wanted an Innova and I just wanted a Jazz (knowing full well that the burden of driving would fall upon my tiny shoulders). But we had to be practical and get a bigger car because, as my mother so lovingly pointed out, “Look at your father. Look at your sister. Look at your other sister. Extra large. Extra large. Large. Medium (pointing to herself). Ikaw lang ang small dito! (You’re the only small one here!)” But in the end, my father had his way (a rarity), because Moche advised against buying an Innova. “Mas okay na yung Montero! (Montero is better!)” So in less than a month, we had ourselves a brand new Mitsubishi Montero Sport GLX A/T.
As expected, the responsibility/burden of driving was bestowed upon me and I had to learn how to drive. I, who had always been more than content on just being a passenger on trips – sleeping and eating whenever and reading endlessly – now had to get a student permit, call up driving schools and learn how to drive. Although my calvary already began during the processing of our documents for the purchase of the SUV, it was nowhere near as painful as the steps that I would have to endure in preparation for my upcoming career as a family driver.
Getting my student permit had been a real pain in the culo. I went to the office early, planning to just go to the Makati LTO after lunch, thinking that processing would be faster during those slow hours. But I was wrong! Processing was so SLOOOOW! It took me almost two hours whereas the officemate who recommended me to go there said she was finished within 20 minutes. What made the waiting all the more irritating was that there was this Caucasian girl who got her permit in 10 minutes! She came in 10 people after me but her bodyguard must’ve known someone in LTO because they prioritized her. Talk about unfair!
After getting my student permit, I then had to look for a driving school that offers lessons using a Montero automatic. I will drive (grudgingly), but I will only drive my family around. Hence, I was not too keen on learning how to drive other vehicles. I called Smart Driving School, Gear 1 Driving School and Red 1 Driving School hoping to get cheaper rates than those of A1. Unfortunately, not one of them offers Montero lessons, so I finally gave in and enrolled at A1 Driving School. And for P8200, I would have to say that those 5 hours were some of the most expensive hours of my life.
Before I had to take my actual driving lessons, I first had to attend an orientation. Since I have a weird office schedule, I had to go to SM North for the orientation and I arrived 30 minutes late. I missed a lot of topics and only got there in time for the pedals, which are really more for the manual drivers. The lecture had been helpful in giving us ideas on how to handle our vehicles… but not so much on what to expect on the road. It was definitely less than sufficient in preparing me for my first day of actual driving.
Day 1 of A1 driving was just one hour. My actual instructor was on leave so I had a substitute who gave me an “actual orientation” consisting of sitting at the Greenbelt parking lot for 30 minutes, adjusting my seat, the side and rear-view mirrors, stepping on the brake and gas pedals, and turning the headlights and parking lights on and off. I then had to transfer to the passenger seat so he could get us out of the parking lot. Once out of the road, my driving lessons commenced.
Driving, for someone who has zero to negative affinity to it, is extremely difficult. Braking is hard, stepping on the gas is scary, and looking at the side mirrors is hectic. Most of all, THOSE MOTORCYCLISTS ARE DETESTABLE!!! I was so close to having a heart attack when I almost hit one of them as he squeezed next to me on my right side while I was turning near MMC. The left side was clear, you idiot! Good thing he was glaring at my instructor instead of me, but all the same I was so stressed I would’ve have cried had my body fluids not turned to ice. It was so traumatizing that I was ready to collapse when I got off the SUV at the end of the lesson. My knees were literally shaking and I was crying for Mrs. Fields to come save me with a box of cookies.
My second and third day of driving was a whirlwind of slow starts, turns and stops, of near misses with jeepneys, tricycles and taxis, and of an introduction to parallel parking. I kept wondering over the fact that other motorists would still honk and glare at us even if there’s a big A1 sticker smacked into the Montero. READ: Student Driver. My instructor kept telling me that if they are honking like crazy, just let them and still take my time in maneuvering the SUV. They were just taking their revenge on me as other drivers had honked at them when they were the ones just learning. A twisted sort of paying it forward.
My last day of driving was mostly about perpendicular parking, driving up and down a spiral parking lot and more straight driving. And after the last hour was up, I was lead to the conclusion that: I have no driving genes. Up to the last day I was tarantacious through and through. Although I was already fully aware that I should just slow down whenever another vehicle suddenly veers to my lane, I would still kabig to the opposite direction, making my instructor snatch and steady the steering wheel. I swear, if he could yank it out of the car he would’ve. My parking skills are dubious at best and I’d be surprised if I’d somehow manage to park our Montero without anyone telling me what to do.
Because of the discouraging result of my driving lessons, I became even more bent on getting my license so that I’d be able to practice without needing to be accompanied by a PROFESSIONAL license holder. So, I convinced Moche to attend the A1 lecture at the SM Mall of Asia last Saturday to get some more tips to be able to pass the written exam at the LTO. During the lecture on defensive driving, I realized that I should’ve attended this lecture before (or during) my actual lessons. I gained a lot of insights on how to properly drive and maneuver in traffic. They should’ve incorporated these pointers on the orientation, or at least advised the students to take the lecture before driving.
As my student permit reached its first monthsary last Wednesday, we went to LTO to get my NON-PROFESSIONAL license. We were there by 7:30am and we were finished by exactly 12nn. Unfortunately, ID cards won’t be available until July 24 so we just got ourselves a temporary license, printed on the same paper that they use for student permits. Bummer.
Just the same, now that I have my license, I will surely loiter around the streets of Metro Manila, navigating through its traffic (and causing several myself), practicing my newly acquired skill and chasing after new adventures as a woman driver.