Friday, February 27, 2009

Driving Miss and Master Tan

Recently, Kenneth got into a fender bender with the car. When he called me to inform me of the unfortunate incident, my first thought shamefully, was not "was anybody hurt?" but "lucky not me".

You see, I am a nervous driver. After I earned my license, I drove only for about three years before I got pregnant and then I had the perfect excuse to give it up. Since then, I've managed to evade the issue using emotional blackmail - "do you want me to endanger our kids??", which worked especially since Kenneth was a willing chauffeur and I was more than willing to be chauffeured. When he was at work, I was perfectly happy taking the bus and the MRT.

But then things started getting complicated about two years ago. While Lesley-Anne and Andre take the school bus, they sometimes have after school activities which fell outside of school bus hours. Still not a problem, I would go and fetch them in a cab when that happened occasionally. Then Kenneth started working in the city where the parking and ERP fees are just atrocious. Added to that, petrol prices were rocketing like there was no tomorrow. He found a super private bus that charged a low flat rate for a trip right into town from a bus-stop just outside our estate, and that became his mode of transport to work.

That meant there was a perfectly functional car sitting pretty at home, while Kenneth took a bus to work and I took a taxi to fetch my kids to their CCAs. Even I had to admit my excuses were starting to sound lame and without conviction. So I grasped the bull by the horns (or rather, the car by its power steering) and started driving again.

There've been a few near misses (and once where a side concrete wall eluded my eyes and multiple mirrors when I was parking, but no need to get into that). I'm one of those drivers who will proceed at snail pace when filtering onto a crowded expressway, signaling madly and yelling at my kid behind "Don't talk to me now! I'm driving!" Once when I was attempting to parallel park next to a coffee shop, I saw a whole group of kopi uncles eyeing me with interest. I'm pretty sure they were taking bets as to whether I would hit the railing.

I have suggested to Kenneth that we wrap giant sponge around the car. Afterall, Singaporeans are just frightful drivers. When I'm driving, I'm constantly muttering to myself like an escaped lunatic: "What, your signal for decoration ah?" "Red light cannot see, colour blind izzit?" "Mad, park here like your grandfather's road like that."

My driving skills are much better now, after almost two years back on the road. But you know, I've come to the conclusion that driving is like exercise, ie:

1. You get better with practice but may never actually come to enjoy it.
2. Some people just have two left feet - disastrous for both activities.
3. Doesn't matter that you're perfectly coordinated, some idiot can always come crashing into you.

So as I drive my prince and princess around, I chalk it up to another sacrifice I'm making for them. Years later, they'd better be returning the favour and preferably not to the nursing home.


Lilian said...

LOL@"lucky not me"! I bet you now think phew if I kena next time, won't get scolding.

Like the kopi uncles, I want to laugh at you, but till today, I can't parallel park. Just cannot. Which is perfect in Sg where you can reverse park almost everywhere but not in the countries I've been the past few years.

Actually, I haven't driven since we left London, gulp.

Btw, Singaporeans are the worst drivers! Never want to give way, don't signal, speed up when we signal...the list is endless. The Germans were the best, the English were also considerate, even the Muscovites are better!

monlim said...

SG drivers are just horrible. Can't tell you how many I've met, signal left then go right.

Bad driving skills run in my family, btw. After driving in Canberra for 2 years, my aunt could only drive to work and back, no detours thank you. My sister recounted how one day she high-beamed everyone all the way home. So driving my kids is a real big sacrifice for me, they better appreciate ok!

eunice said...

Agree with both of you that Sin drivers are bad. Not only that, rude and impatient.

Monica: Have to admit that if I was at the koppi tiam when you were trying to parallel park, would have taken a bet as well.

I love driving. I was actually a driver for one of my friend's weddings!

bACk in GERMANY said...

Or you mean no signals at all?!!!

We've been driving in quite a no. of places in Europe... and yes, the Germans are the best!
Once you signal, they respect the signal! Once I was stuck in a traffic jam, then I saw an escape route in the next 200m. I signalled and the cars just stopped, high beamed me to go ahead. Btw, high beams in Germany are a friendly gesture. When they want to overtake you on the Autobahn, they will left signal behind you, or tailgate you until you get a nervous breakdown.

They are also extremely considerate: They usually filter to the outermost lane when they see another car entering into the freeway - so kancheong drivers like me can always nicely integrate into the flow of traffic on the highway.

Parallel parking... I think the germans are the champion. There was once I thought I was good to have managed to squeeze into a very tight lot. (Actually parking places are never defined in Germany. Wherever lines are drawn, we'll realise how badly they park... ngehngehngeh!) When I came back, ready to go off, I realised another champion fellow from Berlin, left me with no space in front! I almost panicked... went forward and backward at least 5 times... coz I told myself, die die also must come out. Alan was in Sg then! No one would come and save me!!!! That day alone I had to parallel park 3 times! And the worst part was each time I walked off from my parking lot, I discovered a free lot somewhere with forward parking! :s

Hee.. at least no need to fret about parallel parking here, though I wonder if I'd get used to Sg stressful city driving.

monlim said...

Eunice: you're unreal lah, you actually like driving?? next time you come back, drive me around can?

Cindy: I think it has to do with the culture of the people, the Germans are polite in general, hence the better manners. You should see the driving in Beijing, wah, no rules, anything goes one.

Anonymous said...

Haha! What about just selling the car and taking taxis then?
Save money, save time, save your nerves, save car repair bills and save kopi uncles money!

My SPOILT kids like to be driven to school and back - the school is 700m away. We scrimped and saved to buy a house near the school and see what happens? - we still contribute to the greenhouse gases and the traffic jam at the school gates! This year, my New Years' resolution was to walk them to school in the morning - except if it rains, they have a test, they have CCA that day, they have to carry a project or a large file, they slept late, they woke up late, they're tired,.......heheh
My son has a classmate who lives 500m from the school and also gets driven to school and back!

As for me, I like driving. I think the car is an extension of my legs. Totally agree about bad drivers in Singapore. This morning, I actually got honked and dirty looks from he driver behind me when I stopped at a yellow box in the morning jam and let a car from the side road come onto the main road. Sigh!

monlim said...

Elan: I would do that except taxi fares are so frightfully expensive now!! Plus they're never around when you need them.

You don't say about driving short distances, we used to drive just outside our estate to buy bread. Sigh... we're so spoilt!

Anonymous said...

Just started driving again also a few months back, reason being parking at my workplace is free and public transport to home is madness during peak hours! Same same, gave up driving after I was expecting and wanted to go back after kid no. 2 but at that time ... put it off for years till now.

The benefits ? I get home earlier to be with the kids ... no more rushing in the mornings to catch a ride with hubby, no more waiting for hubby to pick up at MRT station... no more getting wet during rainy season.

Still nervous & cautious at the wheel and currently only driving to and fro work... made one detour once (gulp) to the hair dressers !

Hubby's going overseas for a conference next wk which means I have to do some additional driving for the kids' activities. That should be exciting ...not exactly looking forward to it ...

Now if only I could persuade hubby to give up his car and take the condo shuttle to MRT...

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