Attaining a driving licence is possibly one of the most important milestones in one’s life that not only hands you the reigns of freedom, but allows you to move one step further to the territory of adulthood. Once you turn 18, which is arguably far from adult age, you are officially of legal age to drive.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that it’s really virtually impossible to be able to drive at such a young age due to the financial restraints a typical student faces. Unless you’re lucky enough to be sponsored by your parents to pay for your lessons and buy you a car (because after all, what’s the point of having a licence with no car to drive?), this is one of the many harsh realities of a poor student’s life. I remember that at the tender age of 18, getting my licence wasn’t really Number 1 in my top priorities’ list. True, it was lurking somewhere at the back of my head, but I preferred to focus on getting into university and fantasising about one of my latest crushes. Much like myself, I’d like to believe that there were (and probably still are) a significant number of hapless, frustrated twenty-somethings who still have the misfortune of being sans licence. Mind you, it’s not for lack of trying, I’m sure!
Let me relate to you some of my personal anecdotes. Brace yourselves, there are quite a few. I began my tumultuous journey towards the bumpy road of independence back when I was 20. True, for the luckier ones, I was already a couple of years too late, but I was not bothered in all sincerity. So began my painful quest to get my licence. I was so naïve then for thinking it was going to be a smooth sailing process, where I would just plan lessons on a weekly basis for a series of 6-9 months.
Oh, how terribly wrong I was! Nevertheless, in due time, I was quickly disillusioned. I started with one instructor who, although I had already informed I had never driven a day in my life, was horrified to see this was actually true. To quote his very eloquently put words, “Ħa ngħidlek, vera qatt ma soqt ta’, għax qadna ITU! Ha nieħdok il-car park, ara!” (“I must say, you’ve really never driven, ‘cos you’re still at ITU! Look, let me just take you to the car park.”)
I don’t get how certain instructors expect students to already know how to drive on the very first lesson in their entire life! It’s equivalent to me expecting one of my Beginner/Elementary EFL students to recite Shakespeare’s Macbeth on their first day in class. Apart from such unrealistic expectations, this blessed soul had the audacity to turn up as much as 3 hours late for each and every lesson, because it became apparent really fast that time was an incomprehensible concept to this cretin. The only good thing he had to offer me was a referral to another instructor who had more time on his hands, because as he put it, “Bħalissa jien għandi xeba studenti telgħin għat-testijiet, u m’għandix ħin għalik!” (At the moment, I’ve got loads of students going up for their test, and I just don’t have time for you!)
In hindsight, he did me a massive favour, and thankfully our relationship dynamic of instructor and student had reached its organic end.
After contacting this supposedly more reliable instructor, it transpired that he also didn’t have enough time on his hands. You’d think they’re brain surgeons, for crying out loud! As a result of this, he passed me on to his colleague, who eventually, surprise surprise, was unable to give me lessons due to personal circumstances that had arisen. It was at this point that I decided to focus on my university course and ditch the added stress-element in my life.
Eventually, after a couple of years, I resumed to cosying up to the idea of getting my licence, and was advised by my mother to opt for an instructor she had gone to, because according to her, he was tremendously patient, helpful and understanding. However, over the years, these character traits seemed to have dwindled away, or more precisely, morphed into impatience, anger and frustration. He even had the cheek to imply that when he once briefly explained to me a concept I had trouble grasping, he was not getting paid for that extra 10 minute monologue. Stingy much? So he too, was a definite no no.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties in mid-summer 2012, where I was at my wit’s end when it came to finding my suitor– erm… sorry – I mean, instructor… Although, one would think I was trying to find my soul mate at this point…
I finally met my perfect match. A patient, readily available instructor who worked around my busy work/university schedule. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy feat to get that bloody piece of paper, but in the end, after various trials and errors with instructors and countless lessons, voilà! I managed to get my driver’s licence. Ludicrous as it may sound, I honestly felt happier when I became a licensed driver than when I became a graduate! It was the rite of passage in my life that took so much time and energy, that achieving it was something I felt I deserved a good pat on the back for.
While the choice of not driving is a personal decision for some, the vast majority of Maltese youngsters are dying to obtain that much-coveted and somewhat ‘mythical’ legal document that signifies a consecrated release from the nightmares of public transport. Ultimately, cliché as they may be, the morals of this handful of stories are: Don’t give up and where there’s a will, there’s a way! While finding the right instructor whose schedule and character dynamics fit with yours is already a hurdle in itself, managing to get your licence is something that shouldn’t be underestimated, and driving on Maltese roads is not a walk in the park!
Yes, that pun was intended.