Confidence Is A Preference For The Habitual Voyeur Of What Is Known As…

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Chawn
Tags: ,

My driving instructor Barry has just pulled up, and I am feeling great. I’ve passed my theory test and am ready to fight a car. Or at the very least shout at some buses. I’ve been in the sun, in a summer shirt; praying. I am a man of peace. Of confidence. And I drive brilliantly. We reach the Crestwood School and Barry asks me to pull into a side road.

We stop.

It’s manoeuvring time.

If I’m honest, I’m not a confident driver, and I’ve been learning for ages.

I turn in the road with surprisingly German precision and we continue. Barry asks me to reverse round a corner, so I stop the car and jerk into reverse. But oh no! Already this is bad! Because I’ve stopped at a dumb angle! I’m doomed! But you never know… I once scored a 20-yard lob on the astro  playing Wembley Doubles with Docker, so this might be alright…

It’s not alright.

“Oooooh! That was poor Dan! That was poor!”

Barry delivers his now customary diatribe, and I absorb it. My guts, beaten out of me with negativity, swim around the footwell. The footwell of failure. The empty chasm built to cage the souls of the timid. Well, like Birmingham, but with more feet. Or less.

We continue, and the driving’s dire. Barry does his usual explaining my mistakes as I drive off nervously. Which distracts me.

And makes me make mistakes.


We get back to my quiet hometown, and I stop for a parallel park. Barry asks what I should do next.

I think.

The car in front is close, which means I need clutch control to edge out gently. Step 1 of clutch control is… “Set the gas healthy.” Barry’s didactic dictation dances down the dark dungeons of my mental MP3s.

“I set the gas healthily.”


Barry leaps forward in his chair and stops me, which is totally hilarious because of the shape of his head. I sigh. He must’ve noticed my adding an ‘il’ to ‘healthy’ and doesn’t like being F7’d.

“You’re on a hill Dan! It’s not much of a hill but trust me that it is. When we’ve done this on a slope you’ve always started with your foot on the brake, right?”

He’s right. Except that this is the flattest hill in history. I’ve been to Saskatchewan. I know flat. I’ve even seen one.

“This isn’t a hill!”

We argue, but I recall Mom and Dad’s advice and submit to my squashed-football-headed Yoda. I start on the brake to stop the downward inertia hurtling us forwards.

“Right. Now take your foot off the brake slowly.”

I take my foot off the brake. Slowly.

We go nowhere.

I smile.

“Right then, set the gas.”

We drive away, and Barry tells me why he was right! I’m astounded at his audacity, and try to listen, but am driving down Muggsy Bogues roads and need to focus. I come to a curved, downhill T-junction, and it happens. My brain looks at me like it’s tried to comprehend every sentence of The West Wing simultaneously, and can’t find any pringle sandwiches. I’ve lost it.

I stop the car in the middle of the road.

It’s the middle of the day, in an old people area. It’s absolutely fine. 


It is two minutes later, and it’s still fine, except that we’ve spent two minutes arguing and seeing no cars. I eventually recall Mom and Dad’s advice and calm down, drive on and park outside The Maynard.

Where we carry on arguing.

Barry moans that he can’t understand how my brain works, and chastises me for not being able to listen to his Grond-like diatribes while focusing on the road. My blood boils, and I’m my very own John McEnroe. I’m about to get out and slam the door, when I breathe, take the barrage of flak and wish him a good week. And text Hayley.

“Have you still got the number of your old driving teacher?”


It is Wednesday, and I am opposite a man. A man with a normal head. This is weird, and my feet are wet and bloody; but Les does something. Something bewildering. He laughs, and says something that shakes my driving to the core.

“Alright then, Dan. Drive it away. Take me anywhere. Let’s have a play.”

I sweat. And look at Les. And at the wheel. And at the road. And back at Les, who puts me in gear. I am… in charge of a car!? Is he sure? Am I old enough? Have I earned it? The privilege? The right?!?!

I breathe, and drive down Mario bonus roads before getting stuck in a cul-de-sac. I apologise, and sweat. “Don’t apologise! I love these little roads!” Les gets me to drive out of the sitch and shows me my hitherto hidden skills. “You’ve got wonderful control Dan! Wonderful control!” I drive freely, and feel Les thrusting guts at my face.

And then it hits me. I’ve completely forgotten about Barry! Hehe. Barry. Pah! I don’t need him any more! I’m free! To drive, perchance to live! I smile, and do a mirror check. And stop smiling.

“Les! We’re being followed!”

“Oh, really? You know that guy, do you?”

I look at Les. He doesn’t know. That car. Those shades. That head.

“It’s him!

I am Gwyneth Paltrow’s cheating boyfriend in one half of Sliding Doors. And also the other half, but later on. “Can he see me? He must’ve seen me pull out in front of him!” He’s going to chase me! And kill me! Which at least will mean Gwyneth survives. And she is the fairer of the two.

Les laughs. 

I laugh. And cower.


We pull up at The Maynard, and I am confident.

I send Dear Barry a text.

And strut.


It is later, and I am at Chawn. Pilgrim’s closed a meeting and thrown chocolate at me. I decide to pick up the cups, and smile. Confident. I am endowed. Empowered! With confidence, I can do anything! I can drive! And talk! I can catch chocolate!

I decide to show off, and do something mad. I decide to do two things at the same time. Les has given me confidence, and I am perfect. I decide to move a chair, whilst asking Leah to pass me her cup.

“Leah, cup me!”

Oh no!

“What was that, Dan?”

“Nothing….erm, please could you please pass me your cup… please?”

I carry her cup to the kitchen.

With both hands.

And book another lesson with Les.



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