Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”  

George Carlin, American stand-up comedian

Learning to drive is a vital life skill. Nowadays, many jobs require you to be mobile and to get around easily.

If you drive, you don’t have to depend on other people or taxis to get to your destination.

Many lucky youths from rich and middle-income families now learn to drive as soon as they turn 18. Many youths gleefully take to driving just like ducks to water. Take for instance, my 24-year-old niece, Ah Hong.

Not long after she passed her driving test, she took to the driving wheel — but with me beside her, of course, as her watchdog.

When she went to Johor Bahru for a holiday, she fearlessly drove the Perodua Kancil her father bought but did not have the courage to drive.

If you think the traffic in Kuching is heavy, wait till you take to the wheel in Johor Bahru.

“You just have to beef up your courage,” Ah Hong told me. I salute her for her immense courage.

Plucking up the courage to drive is a must if you have just passed your driving test. If you keep putting off the task, you may never have the courage to drive at all.  Just like a few women I know.

These women sat for their driving tests and passed but they never have the courage to drive, even with experienced drivers including their husbands beside them. But year in and year out, they faithfully renew their driving licences.

One woman eventually forced herself to sit for her driving test again and take to the road after her husband died an untimely death and she was left with a car but no chauffeur.

Although a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, I can still remember the first time I took to the wheel.

I was driving back to the place I rented a used car my father had bought me.  He was in a car in front — with a friend who had helped negotiate the price of the used car.

I did not have an experienced driver beside me. Even though I was scared, I had no choice but to drive the car back to my dwelling place.

I had failed my first driving test because I forgot to pull up the handbrake manually when I was asked to stop the car on a slope.

My driving instructor had always pre-empted my actions and would pull the handbrake whenever the car we used stopped on a slope.

I guessed I relied too much on him — to my own detriment!

I had to wait a few months to sit for my next driving test.

Although I passed my second test, I forgot to pull up the handbrake again when I drove the used car for the first time at the junction of Batu Lintang Road and Tabuan Road.

I was unaware of the slight slope and so my car slid down until it knocked into the car behind me.

There was an elderly couple inside and the male driver came out of the car. Since there was no damage, he did not take any action against me,

Because my car slid down the slope during my first driving test and the first time I took to the wheel, I had phobia for slopes for years.

For ages, I tried my very best to avoid routes that had the slightest slopes. Because of that, I was forced to take longer routes instead of shorter routes. Hence, it took me longer to reach home after work every night.

When the New Sarawak Tribune (ST) office was in Padungan, the shortest route from my house in Tabuan Laru was to use the Foochow Road. But I avoided the road for years, opting to use the longer Jalan Simpang route instead.

Finally, one day, I plucked enough courage and forced myself to use the road. To my surprise, the slope was not that steep and I had no trouble tackling it. I gave myself a big pat on the back after I arrived home safely the first time.

I listed my conquest of the road, especially the slope, as one of my biggest achievements for that particular year.

Similarly, when ST moved to Metrocity in Matang, I must thank a younger colleague for showing me the easiest route to the office.

Having lived in Kuching South City areas for my entire working life, most of Kuching North City areas were mysteries to me.

After the ST office moved, every night, for a few weeks, Tini would, without fail, show me the way back to Kuching South City through the Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Rahman Bridge.

Thanks to my niece, Ah Hong, I am now using another different route, Batu Kawa Road, to get back home.

What about you, my friends? What’s the hardest part of driving a car?