A Ride Into the Sunset
Posted on March 23, 2004
So my sister Uma passed her driving test today, bunked the day off work and celebrated with a Macarena of synchronised screaming, clapping and jumping. To be honest I haven’t seen her this happy for quite some time – not even her ‘A’ Level results summoned the sort of celebratory jig witnessed today. Of all the tests we undertake in this assessment obsessed society, from SATs and GCSEs, to University finals and psychological evaluations, passing a driving test is probably the most liberating. Getting behind the wheel of a car, the ‘ultimate symbol of freedom’, opens a bottomless mug of immediate possibility and independence.
The first (substantial) trip I took as a new driver was to the theme park Alton Towers in the Staffordshire countryside, not really reachable by public transport, the journey itself is a white-knuckle rollercoaster of sorts. I remember the steep hills and winding roads and periodically checking my rear view mirror to see who was incessantly honking their horn. It turned out I was honking myself so to speak, leaning on the horn in the centre of the steering wheel as I turned the corners.
My fondest driving memory, a rather specific category of recollection, is from my time in America. My then girlfriend Amanda and I spontaneously took a roadtrip from our base in Davis, California to Portland, Oregon; so spontaneous in fact that our first excursion upon arrival was to go underwear shopping. Since, unfortunately, the sound of a car engine puts Mandy to sleep, I undertook the bulk of the driving. However liberating my licence was it didn’t quite permit me to drive in America nor without insurance, so this time when I was checking my rear view mirror, besides the obvious safety reasons, it was to look out for the stars of the hit TV show, Cops. Fortunately, I never did see a cop car, the view in my mirror was far more impressive if you can imagine: I had a sinking sun behind me and the rising colossus of Mount Shasta up ahead. It was worth staying awake for, Mandy and I agreed, as I drove on – eyes wide open – into that ‘ultimate symbol of happy endings’, the sunset.