Do I need to describe how nervous I was on the morning of my road test? No, I'm sure you can figure it out. I don't even remember the drive to the test centre, or parking in one of the numbered spots. I recall going inside and lining up in the wrong queue, lining up in the correct queue, registering at the desk and being directed to wait outside by the car. Standing in a parking lot full of freaked-out new drivers like myself struck me as a life-threatening activity. Imagine the possibilities.
After what seemed like an interminable wait (likely five minutes), a no-nonsense but personable examiner met me at the car. She had me demonstrate that the signals worked, and then we were off. As I left the parking spot, the examiner asked, "Do you hear that noise?" I did, but I couldn't identify it. "That's your emergency brake," she said. With my face as red as my brake lights, I released the parking brake. I admitted that I rarely used it and that, ironically, I had only engaged it in the first place to impress her. Not a good start.
My last driving instructor had outlined the most likely test route. She had told me that I would leave the test centre, turn right at the first major intersection, and then drive around a nearby industrial area for ten minutes or so. I had made a point of driving around the area with Scott a number of times, including the night before my test. That last practice run hadn't gone so well. At one point, flustered by an approaching vehicle while I was clumsily transforming a three-point turn into a twelve-point turn, I stomped on the gas pedal and reversed speedily right up onto the sidewalk. It was all luck and no skill that had me very narrowly miss a parked car and a tree.
Back to the road test. Armed with a familiarity of the test route, but with my confidence dashed, I proceeded toward the first main intersection with every intention of turning right. The examiner said, "Turn left at the lights." What?? Left? Seriously? Shit. I turned left. I then flipped on my other signal and prepared to merge into the lane to my right, as I had been taught to do. The examiner said, "I appreciate that you're trying to change lanes, but you may as well stay in this one. We're turning left again at the next lights." We weren't following the test route at all. We were heading the opposite way. I wondered if perhaps the examiner was just going to direct me all the way back to my house, remove the keys from the ignition, and instruct me never to drive again. At this point I was okay with the prospect, except for the fact that Scott would be stranded at the test centre.
Rather than driving through an industrial area, I was directed to a residential neighbourhood. There the examiner had me demonstrate my lack of prowess in a number of different maneuvers. At one point she had me pull up to the curb and park. There were no other cars around so it seemed simple enough. Too simple. I realized that this was supposed to be an exercise in hill parking, but I was so nervous that the slope was imperceptible to me. I wasn't sure if I should admit that I couldn't tell up from down or if I should just crank the steering wheel and hope that I chose the correct direction. I decided to confess that I was completely frazzled.
As we neared the end of the exam, the examiner instructed me to make a three-point turn at the next appropriate opportunity. Instead, I continued driving until the only remaining stretch of road between me and the end of the street was blocked by a delivery truck. The examiner directed me to a different street and gave me one more shot at executing a three-point turn before directing me back to the test centre.
As I returned to the parking lot of the test centre, I was convinced of my failure. My self-deprecating comments were interspersed with the examiner's wry remarks. I reached my parking spot and prepared to pull in front-first, as I figured that there was no point in trying anything tricky. "Reverse into the spot," the examiner said. "I dare you." I did as I was told. Knowing that I normally forget to look out the rear window when I back into a spot, I overcompensated by looking nowhere but out the rear window. "What do you see if you look out your side window?" the examiner asked. I checked. "I see that I'm just about to hit the car beside me," I replied. "You should correct that," she suggested. I did.
I turned off the ignition and waited glumly while the examiner reviewed her test sheet and tallied my mistakes aloud. When she reached six I groaned, "That doesn't sound promising." She shook her head. "It's when I have to take off my shoes to continue counting that you need to worry." To my great surprise, she turned toward me and offered her hand. "Congratulations," she said.
Passing my first road test meant that I was now permitted to drive alone. I can't say that Scott looked particularly pleased when I met him inside the test centre and told him that I had passed. Considering how my first solo trip went, I also can't blame him. But that's another story.