I can't believe how much I don't get along with this driving instructor!
I have 4 driving instructors in my team, plus there are a few driving instructors who sometimes sub for teachers from all of the teams. All of them, except for this one, are grandfatherly types-- the youngest of them other than him is the father of one of my students, whereas this guy is maybe early 30s. But I swear, I freeze up as soon as I get into the car with him.
I can't do anything right. If I drive at 43 kph in a 40 zone, I'n going too fast. If I drive at 30 or even 35, I'm going too slow. If I accellerate and then it goes to 43 and I take my foot off the pedal and it goes back down to 37, my speed is varying too much. I'm taking lessons because I can't do it myself-- and none of the other instructors make me feel so shitty when they comment. This guy goes. "You're going too fast! *heavy sigh*".
Stoplights. You want to slow down a bit before you get to stoplight, right? Today at my first stoplight, I stopped fairly quickly before the light-- maybe 1 or 2 houses' lengths before the line. He snaps, "Brake well before the light!" So of course I stop accellerating long before all the other ones, and he goes , "No, accellerate!" Another heavy sigh.
Getting out of a stoplight. 40 kph zone. I go through the intersection slow, because I don't want to careen into something I didn't see. I accellerated slowly after that, because it was a narrow street, with a lot of places that cars might suddenly come out of, and it was so dark I couldn't see anything. He goes, "Accellerate, accellerate! Do you even understand the meaning of the word 'accellerate'?" Another heavy sigh.
Right turns. I don't start the car fast enough after the light turns green, I accellerate too fast when I start the car, and I turn the wheel too fast. All of these, he has mentioned many times that he has mentioned them many times.
Narrow streets: I go too fast, except when I go too slow, I don't know how to properly stay out of the way of bicycles and cars coming from the other direction at the same time, and I don't know how to properly turn into a parking lot. All of which he snaps, followed by heavy sighs.
I don't consider myself a bad driver yet, because I don't consider myself a driver yet. Calling me a bad driver would be like calling my students bad pastry chefs or bad at classical Arabic-- they've recieved no training, they have no idea what to do, they aren't even cooks at all (for the most part) or scholars of Arabic, it wouldn't be fair to call them bad pastry chefs. I intend to be working my way up to beginning driver, and then to good driver. This guy makes me feel like I'm already a really bad driver.
By the end of the hour, my nerves were totally shot and I was trying not to cry. He said that since I don't even get the fundamentals, like how to turn right, I need to drive for another hour on the school's closed course before I go out on the streets again-- which none of the other instructors have said. (Also, these hours are $50 each.) I get the sense that he doesn't want me in a car at all. I wish I could request not to have lessons with this guy.
Now that I have my provisional license, they let me go on roads now. I swear, the last time I did something simultameously as exciting and as terrifying as going 40 kph was when I interviewed for this job. It's so fast! And the steering of the modified Mazda Axela that I'd thought was so sluggish when we drove on the closed course suddenly felt super-responsive. Of course, the next day I had to drive at 60 kph, and then when I went back to a 40 kph road, I found myself doing 45 without even noticing it.
Also, I swear I need to buy a day-glo outfit ASAP. I guess I always assumed that drivers had some sort of secret view panel that they used when they drive at night, and I can't see a thing out the windows, but no, even from the driver's seat I could hardly see anything beside the lines on the road and the streetlights. We passed by a guy wearing a light blue shirt, and he was invisible until I was almost on top of him.
Also, I have no idea how to handle things when it's ambiguous whether you should go or let the other person go. Like, say you're driving by a store, and someone wants to get out. How do you know whether it's safer to let them out or to just drive by? Even when I had the right of way and someone coming from the opposite direction wanted to make a right turn, if they just made a right turn anyway, they could potentially crash into my car, and they were crawling by fast enough that I didn't feel safe going. Of course you have to go by when it's your turn, because otherwise everyone who wants to make a right turn will do it, and then you and everyone else behind you will miss the rest of the green light. But some people will make their right turn anyway, so you can't just go by at high speed. But then if you look like you're hesitating, people are more likely to do it. I don't understand this at all.
Anyway! I'm so happy that I'm finally doing this!
I got my provisional license today! This means that if I'm in a car with controls on both sides, and someone who's had a license for more than 3 years is in the other side telling me what to do, and there are plates saying "PRACTICING" on the front and back bumper, I can drive on streets! This is about 1/3rd of the way to a real license! The written part of the test is 50 questions, and you have to get 90% right, and I got all 50 of them-- it only took me 2 tries!
In other news, I'm giving $50 to MSF. Yes, I still have $50,000 of student loans, but when the Ebola situation is this bad (not to mention that I have enough slack in my day-to-day budget to take driving lessons) you kind of have to.
I'm taking the test for my temporary license on Saturday. If I get this, I'll be allowed to practice driving (with an instructor) on roads as well as in the driving school's closed course. I'm starting to freak out a bit, because there's a written test as well as a driving test. It's only T/F, but both times I took a practice test for it, I only scored 83% right (a pass is 90%). So I have to study, and that means going over the textbook a lot more. I can handle a sentence or even a page of it, but the book is over 300 pages long! I really have no idea how to approach it. When I try to read more than a couple of pages, my eyes just glaze over. I wish I'd studied and reviewed more after each class!
I just saw Avril Lavigne! I was so sad when I missed her whole tour earlier in the year, but she came back! The venue was small, a bit bigger than half of the school gym, all standing, which got very sardiney, and the amplification was a bit wonky, so sometimes her voice got a bit swallowed up by the guitars. Also, she used no interpreter, so sometimes I wished I could shout out a translation of what she was saying. Whatever. The concert was amazing, and even if most of the people couldn't understand a word she was saying, everyone was with her. I'm so glad she made it back here!
Tomorrow I see Lady Gaga. I love summer vacation.
Tomato ice cream seems to be a thing this summer. I first saw Haagen-Dasz Tomato and Cherry a few months ago and tried it then. My verdict: Sure, tomato is a fruit, and no one thinks, say, raspberry-flavored ice cream is weird, so why not tomato ice cream? I thought it worked well with the cherry flavor. The problem was, they'd clearly used tomato paste, which made it taste a bit flat. But the concept has been taken up by all of the little local gelato places, and their tomato-flavored gelato is usually very fresh and full-tasting, just like you'd expect a nice mango or plum-flavored ice cream to be. only with tomato as the fruit. I'm not sure yet if I like it or not.
A go-playing friend called me up yesterday morning. We had the following conversation:
Him: Can you help me out at the festival tonight? We'll be setting up starting at about 3:00.
Me: I'm really sorry! I'm taking a driving course, and I won't get back until 8:30.
Him: OK, never mind, then.
I spent the rest of the day thinking, "Dammit, I could be teaching go at the festival! That would be so much fun!"
I got to the festival just as it was wrapping up, and there were only a few vendors left. Of course, I lined up for takoyaki, and plenty of my students stopped to say hello. I asked a few of them if they saw an old man who was teaching go, but none of them had.
Finally, I spotted him-- or rather, he spotted me-- while I was in line for a crepe. He was selling grilled squid.
Me: What's going on? Weren't you going to teach go?
Him: No, I was going to sell grilled squid! If you had some time, I thought you might help out.
Me: Not to sell grilled squid!
Him: Hey, that's a pretty good idea. We should teach go at this festival next year!
School's out for the next few weeks for me, and I'm really happy. Here's why:
-I've just signed up for an intensive summer course at a local driving school! It was a lot of money, and my parents could've taught me for free 14 years ago. But 14 years ago I was pretty sure that I wanted nothing to do with cars: they pollute, the roads are bad for wildlife and for the water table, sprawl is innefficient for electricity as well as global warming, etc. But swearing to have nothing to do with cars when you're 14 is kind of like swearing to be a vegan when you've never read an ingredients list (e.g, milk in bread and chocolate, gelatin in candies, etc.) Every year I've not driven, I've been driven: friends and family have driven me pretty much everywhere. And although there may be some places where you really don't need to drive, I don't live there. I know of dozens of places that take hours to get to via public transit, if accessible at all, that are only a 20 minute drive away. (I'm thinking right now of the movie theater, the gym, a paragliding place, a restaurant that uses only mushrooms, some mountains, and a go club, and that's only the places I know right now OTOH.) And I remember how tough it was job-hunting without a car; there are so many places that you just can't even consider.
So today was my first day of classes, and having a trained instructor who has a brake pedal on his side of the car, plus knowing that the cost covers all insurance for all damage, just helps you relax so much! I still have no idea where the edges of the car are-- at one point, where I was sure we were straddling the crosswalk, he had me lean out the window and see that there was over a meter and a half left. I am also right now very very bad at using the steering wheel, and the accellerator frankly terrifies me. (And I'm so glad it's not a manual!) But I still have time to learn! I'm so happy to finally be learning!
-Also, Lady Gaga will be coming to Chiba in a few weeks. I waited by the ticket vending machine in the convenience store for the minute the tickets went on sale, so I'm going.
-Also, Avril Lavigne will be doing a mini-tour of the country. I was so sad when she came by a few months ago, and I only heard after it was too late, but she's coming back! And I could get a ticket! It's all-standing, which sucks, but the place is only about as big as a high school gym, so I am thrilled that I was able to get the ticket.