After a lot of dilly dallying over the years, I finally made my way to a Driving School some weeks ago. My expectations? Learning to drive would be a breeze. After all, I could drive an automatic car (that is, when I managed to get my husband’s hand off the steering wheel and shoo away his acrobatic foot from the foot pedals!).
If you took your driving lessons in Kenya, specifically the city of Nairobi, you probably know how my story goes. And this is the one besides the maddening Nairobi traffic jams, the crazy Matatu drivers and sightless pedestrians. Not to mention increasingly narrow roads (I mean how do they expect anyone to navigate inch-thin turns and curves!), cheeky potholes and many roadwork in progress.
Back to my “academy”, I found out that the teaching areas were made up of 2 rooms – boarded up partitions. At least they had managed to make the reception look inviting. But beyond the reception, the theory room was in a dilapidated sorry state, with squeaky wooden benches (in this day and age), old tables, toy cars that came apart with one look, a persistent smelly odor from the washrooms… you can tell my expectations were high.
The teaching style was the first-come-first-taught kind of thing; there was no set time when classes would begin. The students who walked in late (again, “late” was relative) were meant to catch up as the classes’ progressed over the days. Yes, my attendance was almost 100%. Most people averaged 50%, others just showed up for one class or so.
My biggest shocker was yet to come.
For me it made training-sense to have one regular driving instructor and one designated car. And a regular hour. But the man in charge of the fleet did not agree. It was a daily battle of wits.
Next was my driving instructor. Apparently, there was an unwritten code of daily rewards. The one hour spent training me was such a big sacrifice on his part that it deserved a “thank you lunch”. Daily. Forget that I had paid for the course. I quickly found out that all other driving instructors asked, nay, demanded, to be given lunch money as well. I received several lectures from a couple of them about the importance of taking care of one’s driver so that he can teach you well. Huh!!!??
The most amazing thing was the passion with which they believed their stuff. They had actually developed a whole theory that made bribery sound like the truest thing to do. And true to word, the students who did not “treat their drivers well” ended up doing daily tours along the streets of the city, with quiet, passionless, sulking instructors by their side. Extracting an answer from them, which was my only way to learn, was like extracting a tooth…delicate and painful.
Of course I did learn to drive a manual car, a miracle in itself.
But the most important thing I came away with was that in life, if I want to learn how to drive, (or achieve any sort of goal) I must sit on the driver’s seat. However hard, obnoxious, negative, aggravating, annoying or plain insane my circumstances became, I did not have the luxury of walking out of that car. I had come to get my license. And get it, I would. Success was not an option, it was the only thing.
I also learned that I do not learn by receiving instructions only but by practicing what was taught. Some things had to become second nature to me, and that could only happen by continuous application. Like knowing my engine well enough to know when to change gears; I have to tune my ears to the usual.
For me to be successful, I have to seek alternative routes when the obvious ones refuse to yield expected results. So sometimes, it’s through sheer gritting of teeth, being humble and asking questions, that gets me there.
Character does not mean the absence of personal dignity aka being a good person does not equate to being dumb. So even in humility, am not a walk-over. I live in full wisdom, knowing when to engage and when to let it go, when to accelerate and when to pat the breaks. Through it all, I must hold my ground and refuse to indulge in things that cross my moral boundaries. Character is irreplaceable and unbeatable. And so is toughness.
Finally, I was reminded, yet again that without divine intervention, I can never get far in this life. You see, I almost failed my driving exam. I did not “reward” my driver; and so he took it upon himself not to teach me everything he should have. And one of the very things he omitted was the very thing that I was tested on. I passed the test by sheer grace. In life, I will need many miracles because I will not do things the way many people do them. Am unusual and unique. So I do good to cultivate my friendship with the Giver of miracles.
Any fellow learners out there? 🙂