Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Pestilicence – Part 1

The following is based on “Vonke, fiasko’s, vrede en vreugde”, a talk I gave at Durbanville High School on Friday evening, 18 October 2013. I translated this woeful tale into English, so that my English friends can share in my misery. Happy (or shall is day sad) reading! When I was a little girl, I often heard my father saying to my mother: “That child (meaning, of course, yours truly) should never drive a car. She has no road sense.” I believe he really had my safety at heart – he often saw how I wandered about in the streets, my head in the clouds, talking to myself. I was not even allowed to ride a bicycle while I was at school … But even on foot, I managed to baffle and enrage motorists every time I crossed a busy street without looking left and/or right. And here I am today, a geriatric hippy, with two learner’s licences (expired of course) after a total of five attempts, four failed driver’s tests, three cars later and divested of thousands of rands – and still I have no licence! The first twenty-plus years après school, being unlicensed was not much of a problem. In Stellenbosch, and later in Paarl, I was within walking distance of everything and everybody and, when necessary, I jumped on a bicycle or train and I even embarked on the odd taxi journey! But when we moved to Durbanville, I was stranded, especially with kids who had to be fetched and carried. Thus friend and foe started encouraging me with renewed fervour to please try and get that dastardly licence. But it took years and years before I could pluck up the courage … At 40 I failed my first learner’s licence and at 41, during my first driver’s test in Citrusdal, I spectacularly sent a number of white poles flying … I must admit that I have had excellent instructors, enthusiastically recommended and praised to high heaven by those friends and foes already mentioned. As in: he is absolutely fabulous with the most difficult of cases; if she could teach my sister to drive, she can teach anyone (even a lobotomised mouse, by implication); all his students pass , she is a more mature lady, who will understand your hang-ups … he taught all three my daughters, and they all passed the first time round … Ja well, no fine … Bertie Bullfrog was my first victim – he came very highly recommended by the traffic officer who kindly granted me my first learner’s licence. After a breath-taking performance during our first lesson, poor old Bertie was quiet for what seemed an eternity. Then he coughed and sighed: “Look here old girl, this is going to take a very long time – I would say about 57 lessons.” When he beheld my crestfallen face, he quickly added: “The international standard is your age plus 17 more lessons. In your case, 40 + 17 = 57!” I could sense that he thought even this would not be nearly enough. “You must tell me whether you want to do this or not.” (While he looked as if he wanted to run away.) “I will be very patient with you.” To cut a long, rather painful story short, poor Bertie’s patience and sparkling sense of humour did not reap benefits. Encouraged by a friend, I enlisted the help of Wild-Wild Winnie of the Western Cape. She laughed uproariously when I told her about Bertie and the projected 57 lessons: “My dear, you’ve been had. That man caught you hook, line and sinker.” Cheerfully she promised to sort me out in no time at all. Famous last words. During our first lesson she was speechless, I saw her balling her fists, knuckles turning white, because my left was right, and my right was left, among many other things … A few times she yelled anxiously. … Well, when it was almost time for my first driver’s test, she announced rather unexpectedly that she was on her way to America to visit her son, but that she would hand me over to one of her colleagues. Which I kindly, but firmly declined. And that is how I ended up in Citrusdal, where a friend’s sister lived next to a really nice “speedy”, who would no doubt “give” me a licence. But on that day, even the nicest speedy on earth could not have let me pass me with a clear conscience. The kind soul apologised profusely because I had to return to Durbanville without the desired licence in my hand, while he glanced surreptitiously at all the horizontal poles in the yard … (To be continued – The heroic efforts of Bibi Boone, Speedy Gonzales, Scheronda and Poopsie and, finally, Valiant Prince)

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