When I started dating V., there were about a million embarrassing/annoying/crazy things he chose not to mention about himself. Like how if my phone alarm rings first in the morning, he’ll just turn it off and get back to sleep by my side, and I’ll end up being hours late for work and hating his guts. Or how it’ll take him four hours to pick out a pair of sneakers, much to my despair and that of half a dozen shop assistants he’ll have bugged with infinite questions and requests throughout the process. Or how if he’s sitting at his desk at home and feels sleepy, he’ll just put his head on the keyboard and have a little nap right then and there, making it super fun for me to walk in, see him like that, decide he’s had a stroke and become absolutely hysterical.
In time, I’ve learnt and accepted all these little nuggets of singularity, and though I still constantly moan about them, they’ve become an integral part of our life together and I’d probably miss them if they were gone. Or not. Who knows, relationships are weird.
But one thing that’s been sitting at the top of the things-that-annoy-me-about-V. list for several years now, has been the fact that he didn’t have a driving license. I know! You can imagine it almost put me off going out with him to begin with. I mean, what the heck, in your late twenties and no license? Something was definitely wrong with him.
Against better judgement, I actually agreed to give him a chance, but this driving business has ever since been a thorn in my heel. So it was for the good of our relationship that we decided V. should get some driving lessons and take his license test. It’s probably high time I mentioned that, although I’ve had my license for almost 10 years now, since we’ve moved to London I’ve not driven once. It’s got to do with not having a car, not really needing a car, but mostly with the fact that people here drive on the absolutely-let’s-not-fight-about-it-wrong side of the road. Laugh all you want, it’s a problem. But I figured, V. would learn his driving in London, he’d have no issues with driving on the completely-annoyingly-wrong side of the road, he’d be super duper confident and willing to drive me absolutely everywhere, and all would be right in the Universe again. Yup, that’s how things tend to work out in my imaginary life.
Real life, you ask? Why that’s an entirely different story.
Now, if I’m going to moan about V. and his amazing driving skills, I might as well mention that he passed his test on his first try, a most miraculous feat if I may say, considering his main practice consisted of playing computer games for hours on end. And not even the driving, let’s-run-over-as-many-pedestrians-as-possible kind of games (which I at least would have approved of, all things considered!), but the who-cares-about-driving-I’m-shooting-zombies kind. But I digress.
He passed the test, we got a car, life was grand. And then we had to drive it home from the dealership.
It was the Monday after the London storm. October 29th, 2013. A date I’ll forever carry tattooed on a part of my brain that has since been permanently damaged. Overnight, trees had fallen, cranes had collapsed, roofs had been blown off houses. In the morning, train and tube services were an utter mess, which is always good news. So, professional as always, we decided the best course of action was to watch-youtube-videos-and-call-it-work from home and end the evening with a quick trip to the dealership to pick up our car. Fun and games.
If you live in one of those exotic places they’ll never give me tourist visas for, like Hawaii, or The Bahamas, or somewhere sunny-beachy-let’s-all-wear-speedos-everywhere, you probably have no idea that for the past couple of months, my sun has been setting at 4 PM. Not that it makes much of a difference, I hardly ever see it in all this rain and fog anyway. But back to the story. By the time we were leaving the dealership, it was pitch dark, windy and raining. Imagine a Noah’s Ark sort of rain. Except we had no giraffes and and our means of transport was, I assume, way flimsier than Noah’s contraption. The first wonderful surprise of the evening was when a gust of wind blew both Learner plates off our car just as we were leaving the parking lot. It was a tragedy. Those Learner plates, they had been our only hope of making it through this in one piece. They were our scarlet letter, and one we would have worn with infinite pride. “Pay attention to this moron.”, they said. “He is a lousy, lousy driver and he will do incredibly stupid things behind the wheel. Keep a safe distance. Expect the unexpected.” But they were gone, and without them, we were presumed capable until proven otherwise. We were terrified.
That’s when we noticed all the fallen trees.
They were everywhere, surrounded by pointy reflective orange markers or soaked, suicidal looking road workers. And they were not budging. It was like half of London’s tree population had decided to take off one night, only to realize that those tangled roots were not made for walking after all. Trees are dumb that way. A normally 20 minute trip took us just about 3 hours, a time of prayers, dedicated cursing and what-does-this-button-do moments. We only took the wrong turn three dozen times, which was to be expected, and quite a thrill in the super duper, end-of-the-world, pouring rain.
It’s been several weeks now and the memory of that drive still gives me night terrors. But it wasn’t all lost that fateful evening. A few therapy sessions later, V. felt he could handle another driving experience. And then another one. And now, things are definitely looking up. We’ve only got to work on how to handle roundabouts, parking of all kinds, stopping at red lights and sticking to the speed limit. Piece of cake.
All things aside, this whole being-the-proud-owners-of-a-car-with-the-steering-wheel-on-the-wrong-side thing is making us feel uncomfortably grown up, and it’s become the heaviest thing anchoring us to this country we’re still not sure we’re happy being anchored to. It’s a strange feeling. Also, V. recently realized that, as we’ve been irresponsibly living in sin all this time, if he’s suddenly abducted by aliens one day, his mum would get the car instead of me. I stared at him in disbelief for half a second, then laughed at the thought of his mum at the wheel, this stupidly placed wheel she’ll be positively outraged at. And then I realized I’d just reached a new low. I’ll soon be one of those ridiculous will-writing-life-insurance-policy-signing-ressponsible-adults I’ve always felt superior to. How will I then face the rest of this carefree planet?