I want to start this by clarifying something straight off the bat, I’m not a great driver. I won’t stand on the podium, like Lewis Hamilton, criticising the ability of others when the reality is, in terms of skill, I’m a lot closer to Dick Dastardly.
If you could get some of the CCTV footage from Midtown Cark Park, or Eroski car park, where I’ve performed spectacular feats of rookie driving, you’d be dumbfounded at how someone once permitted me to carry a licence.
After holding my licence for more than a year now, I know with great confidence that if I was to have to do a re-sit, I’d fail. I can admit that.
It took me two attempts to pass, and the only reason I passed on the second time was because there was no free spaces on Scud Hill to perform a reverse hill park. As simple as that, if someone had decided to go shopping at the time of my test it was all over. I can still feel the smile getting broader as we came down the hill, realising there wasn’t a single bay to park in.
As far as my lessons went I was actually getting WORSE at parking on that hill. I was bumping cars, hitting the curb, stalling, anything I could get wrong I was getting wrong, as the test drew closer, the confidence in my ability was ever declining.
On my first attempt I bumped, stalled, and the game was over. Me and the guy conducting the test were on the way back to Eastern Beach as I desperately tried to contain my humiliation.
Don’t get me wrong, you can get in a car with me, and I will get you safely from A to B. I may not be able to park when we get to B, and you may lose a good forty minutes or so whilst I try and find somewhere that I can park confidently, but we will get there in the end.
I partly blame myself for this, I should take time out on my own, and find a place where I can hone these skills, and work on the basics, but how many people actually have the time to do this?
Just this morning I parked my car up, checked I was inside the lines, which I was, but I was only marginally inside the lines on the passenger side, and I panicked a little bit. This is not good enough, what if someone parks in the bay next to me but can’t get out because I’ve penned them in, I need to readjust. As soon as I got back in the car, put the key in the ignition, some dude slides into the spot next to me, gets out the car and walks off to the lifts. Whilst I’m still sat in the car like an overthinking idiot.
This is where I find a fault in the way we learn to drive in Gibraltar, we aren’t learning the basic fundamentals of driving. We are learning to memorise, and perfect a route.
Also, on a personal note, the reverse hill park on Alameda during the test is a farce. If you’ve spent months learning, and perfecting a route, only to have that curveball thrown at you out of the blue you may struggle a bit.
Unless you have an instructor who is willing to take the hit if you get fined for driving inside the city walls, then good luck with that because the first time around my instructor at the time gave me the quick drive through of the route, and we went through Alameda and he said “You pull in here, reverse around the corner, reverse up the hill, and park in the bay up there.”
I found this out fifteen minutes before I was due to take the test. I failed the test on Scud Hill, but I got negative feedback on this maneuver, even though I got it right, my tester decided that it wasn’t smooth enough. I’d made too many adjustments.
In my eyes I can’t see what the issue was, I had traffic that had quickly built up behind me, and a limited amount of space, so I just wanted to get it right. I didn’t put anyone in danger, I got into the bay, I hadn’t even practiced this technique, what’s the problem?
I still try and rack my brain, to think of an area, outside of the city walls where a learner can replicate that type of obstacle, and draw a blank.
Anyway, I digress.
What I’m trying to say is that maybe instructors and schools need to take a stand back and realise that some parts of the teachings need to be improved. Obviously a large part of becoming a better driver is learning on the job, the more you drive the more you’re likely to improve, but I know people who after years of driving still have no confidence in their ability to park.
It’s just basic things.
Take yesterday, for example, I pulled into Midtown Car Park, got to the top of the hill, only to have to stop at the very peak of the hill, because someone had got to the top and stopped to take out their ID card. I don’t have a very powerful car, I think the balance of me going up the hill or slowly gliding back down it was hanging at about 50/50.
There was about 10 metres of free space for this person to move into, and even a vacant terminal to scan the ID where they could have pulled in, but they didn’t have any spacial awareness. Instead, I’ve got a 4×4 flying up the hill behind me, whilst I’m now having to nail a hill start because someone couldn’t drive forward a further 5 metres.
It’s a basic awareness of others which you don’t really learn, but should be drilled into you. Be wary of those around you or you could cause an accident. Of course you will, hopefully, learn that over a period of time, but it needs to be ratified constantly from day one.
This is just food for thought, if you’re not like me, and you do have the time to perfect your skills, then I hope you eventually find your confidence and get there.
If not keep aiming for the easy spaces, and join me in the furthest corners of Morrisons car park avoiding humiliation.