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facts & arguments

PETE RYAN/The Globe and Mail

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Getting your driver's licence, a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Have a traumatic childhood incident at a Kelowna, B.C., go-kart park. When the light turns green, freeze, because you've forgotten which pedal does what. Test pedals, zoom forward, freeze again – this time with your foot on the gas – knocking over pylon after pylon. Come to a stop on a patch of grass inside the track. Hyperventilate. Lurch back onto the track and inch your way over the finish line. Remove helmet, run to bathroom. React stoically when someone explains that they couldn't display your lap time because of all the extra digits.

Step 2: Fail road test at age 16.

Step 3: Practise parking with Dad in the Superstore parking lot.

Repeat Step 2.

Step 4: Feign indifference when your parents pay other kids from your school to drive you to class.

Step 5: Gasp in horror when British Columbia brings in graduated licensing, which means that: a) you must now pass two road tests in order to get your full driver's licence; b) after passing the first road test, you must display an embarrassing green "N" (for Novice) sticker on your car.

Step 6: Pass first road test at age 19.

Step 7: Display your "N" proudly. Grasp steering wheel with hands at the 10 and 2 (clock-face) position. Drive carefully, fearfully. Concentrate so hard on driving that you are almost incapable of driving. Observe all posted speed limits, thereby making drivers behind you insane. After two weeks, proceed to Step 8.

Step 8: Discard "N" and take up another activity while driving – any activity (eating, obsessive fiddling with climate control, viewing of Mapquest printouts)! Check hair in rear-view mirror. Listen to gangsta rap, then adult contemporary. Get in an accident with a parked car, then with a moving car. Compare and contrast the two experiences.

Step 9: Gasp in horror when you discover the impact of two accidents on your insurance premiums.

Step 10: Spend the next 13 years establishing a delicate balance between paying attention to driving and thinking about other things, thereby minimizing risk of accidents and preserving precious mental energy. Smile sweetly when other drivers flip you the bird, which is often. Avoid merging, parallel parking, valet parking, backing in, backing out, four-way stops, bridges, toll booths, night driving, driving downtown and roundabouts.

Step 11: Get a $228 speeding ticket because you were trying to get your kids home before they fell asleep in the car, because if they fall asleep in the car they won't nap at home and you really, really feel like shopping for shoes online. Bonus: $109 ticket for failing to display your "N."

Step 12: Gasp in horror when you receive a letter from Kathy Thomson, director of provincial licensing, warning that "in the interest of public safety" you will lose your licence if you get another ticket because you are, after all, still a Novice driver.

Step: 13: Consult transit schedule for your under-served Vancouver suburb. Cry. Contemplate a life in which you can't go out for groceries or take your daughter to ballet class, in which night and day lose their meaning because you wear pyjamas round the clock.

Step 14: Pull self together. Resolve to become a fully licensed Class 5 passenger-car driver in the province of British Columbia. Book driving lesson. Book road test. Get another "N" sticker.

Step 15: Attempt to undo 16 years of bad driving habits in one hour-long driving lesson. Ponder advice from instructor, Doug, to "drive like your mother-in-law is in the seat next to you."

Step 16: Practise parking in Thrifty Foods parking lot.

Step 17: At licensing office, fill out questionnaire titled How Can We Help You on Your Road Test? Check box next to "talk about the high points and get going." Estimate age difference between self and others in waiting area. Estimate anxiety level of others in waiting area compared with your own anxiety level.

Step 18: Turn right when examiner, Brad, tells you to turn right. When Brad tells you to get into the left lane, get into the left lane. When Brad asks, "so what do you think the speed limit is along here," assume he is just making conversation.

Step 19: When Brad looks out the window, crane neck to see his clipboard.

Step 20: Pass final road test at age 32. Roll eyes when Brad reveals that he almost failed you for "rolling stops" (whatever those are), "uncertain steering" and driving too slowly.

Step 21: Pose for licence photo, and when Brad tells you to make a serious face,

Step 22: smile anyway.

Step 23: Remove "N" sticker.

Brooke Kaulius lives in Surrey, B.C.