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(Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
(Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Driving School

Driving in Toronto is not for the meek Add to ...

I think maybe for the first time during this whole process, I was right about something. Even though people warned me of the risks of wedging driver's education between family or a friendship, my relationship with my dad survived our first practice session. In fact, I think we made a pretty good team.

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But that's not to say the lesson was uneventful.

Read more from Kate Robertson's Driving School adventures



My dad picked me up after work one day last week, and I drove us to a parking lot on Roncesvalles in the west end of Toronto, a safe distance from the G20 madness downtown. When we got there, I started explaining the tricks my driving instructor, Chris, had taught me about how to line the car up properly for backing into spots. I started practising in the outer regions of the lot, where there wasn't any traffic, planning to move closer as I felt more comfortable.

As I slowly eased the car back into a spot in a completely deserted area of the lot, a woman of about 75 drove toward me from behind. I guess she, too, was avoiding cars, but for a different reason. She was headed to the garden centre, which was set up in the lot nearby. She stopped about two feet behind me, her car cutting diagonally across another empty parking spot. I saw her there, I was aware that I was in her way, but I was prepared to stick to my guns.

And then, that mean old granny just couldn't wait any longer to get those gardening supplies she desperately needed. The old bag honked her horn.

"Hey! She's parking here," my dad glared back at the woman, who definitely couldn't hear him. But I guess she realized that I wasn't just messing around, driving backwards in an empty lot for fun. I was actually parking. She sped around me.

"I try not to let other people make me nervous," I said to my dad, and thanked him for having my back in the parking lot showdown with the elderly woman. And I think this has been key.

I've gotten pretty good at keeping my cool when other drivers get impatient, or when I imagine they're getting impatient. I practised parallel parking on a quiet High Park street halfway through the lesson. And as I blocked a line of neighbourhood traffic, likely full of anxious moms and dads hurrying to spend time at home with their families on a beautiful June evening, I also blocked out any anxiety that I could feel rising from the pit of my stomach.

No one will die in their car waiting for me to finish what I thought was a pretty good parallel parking job. No one will throw a tantrum. In fact, probably a lot of them don't even mind waiting. That's what I tell myself, anyway, so I can focus on the task at hand and not let other drivers push me around.

That said, just because I feel alright testing the patience of other drivers, my dad informed me that I need to be a little more aggressive on the road, and a little less hesitant.

Twice when I was trying to change lanes, cars wanted to let me in, but I was too slow on the uptake, and the cars sped past me. I thought they were being rude, but apparently I'm supposed to recognize and take those opportunities pretty quickly, otherwise they will be gone.

But I think for now I'll master one thing at a time. I can work on being more aggressive once I actually have my G2.

Read more from Kate Robertson's Driving School adventures

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