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THE DRIVING LESSON

I pace the floor nervously. Where IS he? How much longer do I have to wait? He is already 30 minutes late!

It is 23 January 1979 and I have been in Quebec, Canada for all of three months and today is my first driving lesson – EVER. I have never even sat behind the driving wheel of a car. In England, I walked everywhere pushing the children in my Silver Cross upright pram and later, we caught a bus. In Geneva where we had been living previously, we had a small VW Beetle and my husband drove it. Here, we have what to me is a huge car, and I am supposed to learn how to drive it? I am a nervous wreck. My son Owen, aged 5 has to come with me, as I do not know anyone to care for him, and the thought of Owen in the back seat with ME and my first driving lesson has me really worried.  My appointment was for 10 am. At 10:30 I call the school to ask where he is. They tell me he should be there, and to make alternative arrangements when he arrives.

WHAT? All that worry and a sleepless night to make alternative arrangements?! My fear makes me angry. The driving instructor eventually arrives 40 minutes late, claiming to have been ‘ringing the bell’ and I was not answering. I tell him he is very late and I called the school to ask where he was. Then, HE gets annoyed and informs me he has to go or the other client will be ‘tearing his hair out’ plus, I cannot expect him exactly on time in ‘these conditions’ These conditions being heavy snow, wind and ice which is not ideal  for a first ever driving lesson, but what do I know?

I tell him to leave and I am going to cancel future lessons with this school. I shut the door and cry and cry I feel like a failure. I’ll never learn to drive. Eventually, I mop up and call the school and demand a refund. The director was very kind and said the instructor was wrong trying to justify his lateness.  He would make another appointment. ‘Not with HIM’ I rage. No, another person he soothes. I put the phone down, have another cry. I feel so frustrated, angry nervous and very alone. I wept for most of the day. Two days later, after 2 and half hours of snow clearing another strange ritual, I have my first driving lesson.

The instructor this time is a Welsh man and he is very patient telling me to relax. Ha! relax? No way! The sweat is actually running down my back and I can’t stop trembling. How do I work the window wipers in this snow? Put the heater on? Which side of the road am I supposed to be on? Why is there a ‘Stop’ sign at every corner? I manage to get to the next street and it is covered in thick ice. A water main has burst, and the street is like an ice rink or what I would imagine an ice rink to be, having never seen one. Oh! the anxieties and fears of being a newcomer.

Eventually, I do get my driving license, and today I love to drive but those few fraught months of learning is something I will never forget but the bonus is, that driving in snowy icy weather here in Quebec is a breeze for me now! I have no fear.

 

 

Details! Details!

Sometimes, being confined to just 500 words for our Genealogy Ensemble blog is hard to do. I love to talk and so, when writing a story I do tend to write as I talk. Fast, detailed and expressive. Well, at least I like to think that is the way I write!

For instance, in a story about my family immigration to Canada I wanted to included my very first driving lesson ever, with as much detail as I could. A little too much detail…..

The weather the ice the roads, my fear. I used them all in that story. I was then 32, and it was my first time behind a wheel, scared and nervous not knowing how to work the windshield wipers, sweat running down my back with my youngest child in the back seat as I could not get a baby sitter – I did not know anyone yet – and the absolute fear of being in control of a car. I still had not included all the stress of that day, such as waiting for the instructor to arrive, he was very late, due to the severe weather conditions and also angry with me, because I had called the school, to ask where he was. A great start to a first lesson.

I was advised that my story whilst interesting, could be edited a lot more. I never thought of doing that! I fear I will lose so much of interest in a story but I was gently reminded that this driving experience within the immigration story, was another story in itself. Well, yes, it was rather long I had to admit, so out it went for another day and another story. Lesson learned.

My Oxford Thesaurus comes in handy. I use it more frequently now, to try and write subtly using maybe one word for descriptions instead of two or three and also try to eliminate redundant words such as “the reason is because” and use instead “because” Now, I find myself listening to young people using ‘like’ before and after every sentence and thinking ‘that could be eliminated from your speech!’

It is hard to remove words, I love all the “details” but if we all have to abide by the 500 words rule for our blog then I too, have to find a way. (I just deleted ‘to do it’ at the end of that sentence, so maybe I am learning).

I have to ask myself, can I cut out all the ‘details’ use fewer words and still be interesting? I am going to try and my new motto will be, ‘If in doubt cut it out, or use fewer words’

PS: I managed to confine this story to 452 words!

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