When I was sixteen, I drove a car for the first time. Dad sat beside me: “That’s the clutch, that’s the brake, and that’s the accelerator,” he said, more or less. “Let’s go.” I drove round the block and grazed noisily past the porch pillar which had unaccountably grown fatter.
Ten years ago I was whizzing home along the empty road beside the sea, and saw (and heard) a police car heading towards me, siren screeching. I assumed it was after a criminal. It was. Till then I didn’t know that the police could monitor the speed of an oncoming vehicle.
My next birthday is fast approaching and that is to be the end of it – I have now driven a car for the last time. I went to the supermarket to stock up and was setting off back home when the railing of the empty-trolley collection area in the carpark lurched sideways into the car without warning and there was a fretful squawk of metal on metal. Oh well, the new dent would match the one on the other side – the one that was not down to me as far as I know.
I didn’t bother to get out and look at the damage. It’s an old car – an oldie but a goodie – and whoever is going to get it cheap probably isn’t going to worry about a few dents. It will be someone who wants to strip it down for spares, needs a runabout, wants to take it apart and put it together again just for fun – or needs practice in panel-beating.
On my extra careful way home along that empty road beside the sea I pondered that two dents plus one speeding ticket wasn’t too bad for all these years on the road. Not that I haven’t made mistakes. There have been plenty – many as a result of getting lost. I have surely exceeded the speed limit sometimes without noticing. There have been some stupid decisions – the ones that give you a jolt to the heart and make you tell yourself not to do that again. And I’ve shaken my head at the stupid decisions made by others, right in front of my nose, while smugly forgetting my own. I’ve deserved more tickets than I have received: mea culpa.
So – it’s time to get off the road and leave the rogue pillars and capricious railings to leap out and dent other people’s cars.