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School's out for Kate Robertson, who just passed her driving test. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
School's out for Kate Robertson, who just passed her driving test. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Driving School

She passes ... but not fast enough Add to ...

I had trouble sleeping the night before my G2 road test. Even though it's been wonderful sharing all of the ups and downs of learning to drive with GlobeDrive.com readers over the past three months, I really didn't want to fail. It's one thing to not pass the G2 test. It's another thing to tell everyone in the world, after all this work, that you suck.

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Chris, my driving instructor, picked me up late in the morning in his Mitsubishi Lancer. I drove, for the first time, on the highway to the test centre in Oakville, making high-pitched "eee" sounds every time a transport truck passed me or I had to change lanes. But we made it, and Chris directed me to a neighbourhood dotted with mansions and nice, wide roads to practice my skills before the test. I tried to parallel park, but I hit the curb on the first go.

"That's an automatic fail," Chris said, not pleased.

I did a few more, this time avoiding the curb at all costs. If you're too far from it, you only lose a few points. I practised my three-point turns, and then we headed to a shopping plaza where I did some more parking. Total cinch, I thought. But then Chris started doing his thing that he does.

"See that lane there? That's a left-turning lane for traffic coming from both directions. Do not go into that lane if there are two solid lines. Go straight unless they tell you otherwise. When you make a left turn, turn, go into the left lane, and then when it's safe, switch to the right lane. Only turn when it is absolutely safe. Remember to pull the parking brake up every single time you park. And remember, one kilometre over the speed limit is an automatic fail. Got it?"

Read more from Kate Robertson's Driving School adventures

What I thought was a basic list of items I had to master was becoming a long list of things that I'd never remember.

We went back to the test centre an hour before my test, which seemed generous. But when we walked inside, I understood why.

"Oh my God," I said. "This place is awful."

"Are you crazy? You should see Downsview," Chris said, eyeing the scene that was not unlike something you'd read in a novel about a socialist experiment gone wrong. "There's a line that goes out the door up there."

The room was crammed with sweaty, grumpy, nervous people. Every seat was taken, so we stood in line. It didn't budge for half an hour. The administrator for that department was on lunch. No one replaces her while she's gone.

Finally, I made it to the front desk and registered. Or I guess I did ― Chris did everything, which was nice because my nerves were getting the best of me. We walked back to the car. I got in and started it, realizing that it was the first time I'd turned on the ignition. Then a young, pleasant-looking woman in a blue uniform came out and sternly introduced herself. She tested my signal and brake lights, and then she got in beside me. I think she asked me if I wear glasses, but I was so nervous, she could have asked me anything.

I carefully backed the car out and slowly drove through the lot to the road. This was it.

My tester didn't speak unless it was to give me an instruction. I tried to remember everything Chris had said, but I focused on those basics: turning into the proper lanes, signalling, putting the parking brake on, checking my blind spot.

Luckily, the agony you endure is short-lived because it's over so quickly. My tester asked me to park on a hill, and I remembered to turn my wheel as a safety measure in case it rolls. She asked me to parallel park, which I did, leaving more than few inches from the curb. We went over railroad tracks, and I slowed down and looked both ways. I kept my speed under the limit.

As we headed back toward the test centre, I focused on my speed. I was trying to get some sense of how I was doing when my tester said, "Stop sign."

I hadn't seen it. I didn't go through it, and I had time to stop safely, but I hadn't seen it and she knew it. I didn't say a word. I felt like an idiot. I was sure I'd just failed.

We pulled into the centre's parking lot, and my tester asked me to park. I sat, silently cursing myself, and waited for the verdict.

"You need to speed up more when you change lanes, but you passed," she said.

What?

I thanked my tester, but she was already out of the car to conduct another test. I got out and made a V for victory with my arms at Chris, who was waiting in the parking lot, as I glanced back at his car to see how well I'd parked. It was comical, how crooked it was.

The best part? I'd avoided writing a final story in this series about failure. I'm looking forward to seeing you on the road.

Now, who wants to lend me their car?

Read more from Kate Robertson's Driving School adventures



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