Driving Miss Crazy

March 24, 2012

I am learning how to drive. Having lived in London for the whole of what is laughably known as my “adult” life driving was never on my agenda. London is a seething snake pit of bus and train routes which make driving pretty much unnecessary. For ten cramped years I have happily avoided the eye contact of people from all over the world while involuntarily jabbing them gently with my crotch, or accidentally kissing them lightly on the neck as we pull into a station. A frequent complaint I hear about London is its “unfriendliness” and the transport system is often held up as an example of this. “No one ever smiles at strangers on the tube or the bus,” people say. “Back in Little Quaintlington we all smiled so much at each other that the muscles in our cheeks were the most developed in the land and would sit on our ruddy, beaming faces like proud eggs.” Well, balls. When has a stranger’s smile on public transport ever meant anything other than the contemplation of a sexual assault? I don’t want people I’m not familiar with smiling at me. It’s creepy. Smile at people you know, they’re used to it. And also, men who stare at women on public transport because they find them attractive need to consider this fact: never in the history of humanity has there been a speech at a wedding where the groom has ended with, “To think all this started because I stared intently at her face for 13 stops on the Northern Line, ladies and gentlemen, my wife!”

So I don’t know how to drive at the age of 29, which comes as a shock to people outside of London – akin to informing them that I never learnt how to properly wipe myself. I did try once a few years ago. I had to stop though because the lady who was teaching me was, in no uncertain terms, a total nut-job. She appeared at the door on the day of the first lesson in a billowing floral nightie, flip-flops (which even in my own limited experience I knew to be inappropriate) and a bandage on her right foot and leg. For someone who was about to start teaching me how to drive, she looked suspiciously like she had just been in a car accident. It also looked like she had discharged herself early from hospital that very day, and had come straight to my house, after stealing a pair of flip-flops. Never mind, I thought. She’s probably a brilliant instructor. She wasn’t. She spent an inordinate amount of time reaching for belongings she had “left” in the driver’s door, which necessitated rubbing her vast boobs against my arm. Her demeanour also wasn’t suited to dealing with the nervous and easily startled beginner learning how to operate a speeding tonne of steel. If the car drifted slightly too far to the right or left, instead of calmly asking me to correct my course, she would burst into a fit of shrieking and yank desperately at the wheel, like we were heading to the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley of poisoned spikes. “We’re too close to the side! It’s dangerous!” she would scream as she made the car veer from left to right in the middle of a busy road. Anyone watching in those (not infrequent) moments can only have drawn the conclusion that I was kidnapping her. She knew I was an actor, and when I told her that my job at the time involved my character’s death she cried out like a grieving ox and nearly pulled us into the front of a PC World. Her family came up in conversation frequently, especially the son and daughter she had brought up by herself. “Oh yeah I’ve got a favourite,” she would say when she spoke about them, in response to a question I never asked, “…my daughter.” She was inordinately proud of this fact. “I know you’re supposed to love them both the same but that’s just me, I don’t care, I love her more.”

“You taboo-busting maverick,” I nearly said every time this came up. “If only more people took a stance against loving their children equally.”

Eventually the combination of constant screaming, bandages and my growing sense of injustice on behalf of her poor son (“He’s not done anything in particular, I just don’t like him.”) got too much for me and I stopped organising lessons. I received a Christmas card from her about six months later (around about Christmas time come to think of it) heart-breakingly personalised with stick-on stars and Christmas trees. Business clearly wasn’t good. The yuletide spirit, and my tendency to feel uncontrollable great duvets of guilt enveloping me, gave me an urge to call her and book some more lessons. Then I was struck with a vision: an upturned car, smoking and mangled in the wrecked front of PC World Lewisham and two bodies; one of them motionless, bleeding, pleading soundlessly for help and the other, a woman, using the last of her mortal strength, not to get help, but to rub her boobs against the other’s arm.

I’ll get the bus, I thought, putting down the phone. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get to stare at the girl of my dreams.

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2 Responses to “Driving Miss Crazy”

  1. Annie Says:

    Hi Daniel

    Have been enjoying your blog and I was just wondering how you were getting on in NYC. Am looking forward to hearing about the play and your thoughts on US life.


  2. Have now officially decided against booking my first lesson!
    excellent, thanks for the giggles 😉


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