Friday, July 13, 2012

A Little Something in the Meantime: Getting Personal

Happy Friday the 13th! 

Since every post needs a photo, here’s a bit of beautiful that bloomed in my garden this morning.

July 13th Rose Edit

If I remember correctly, it’s a rose variety called “True Love” that was given to me as a year-end gift by one of my lovely students, Cadyn, a few years ago. Such a sweet gift idea.

I’m a bit behind on editing photos for a few projects so today you get a little inside scoop on something that has been keeping me preoccupied for the last few weeks.

Warning: Get comfortable!

On Tuesday, July 10th, I crossed my second biggest ‘personal to-do’ off my list – I finally got my G License. Woohoo!  (BTW, first = get a teaching contract).

This accomplishment has been a long time in the making and it has truly taken a village.

I have been driving by myself for almost 10 years, but now I won’t have to take another driving test until I’m 80! 

In Ontario, we have something called Graduated Licensing which requires that you pass three tests to complete your driver training. The first is the written test to get your G1 which is equivalent to a learner’s permit, the second is an in-car city driving test (G2) after a minimum of 9 months driver training or 1 year if you don’t do some sort of Driver’s Ed. Passing your G2 means that you can drive on your own, with certain restrictions. The third test is the G test and it can be taken 1 year after passing your G2. This test has both a city and a highway driving component to it. Once you get your G, there are no restrictions on your license.

Whew! Complicated right?

So, here’s the story of my journey to finally getting my G.

Driving has to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever learned to do. Nothing about it came naturally to me and I found that very discouraging. I didn’t even pass the written test on the first try (you could get 4 wrong, I had 5 wrong). Eventually I realized that it had a lot to do with my learning style. I could read the driver’s manual and watch someone else driving but it didn’t translate into me mastering the steps easily.

Many people were involved in teaching me to drive and I am truly grateful for all the time they committed to this less-than-ideal task.

When I first got my G1, I would go driving with my Dad and my older brother. My Dad will drive anywhere, anytime. My brother would sit in the garage pretending to drive before he was 16 and never looked back once he got his license. One day, something happened on a drive with my Dad and I refused to go with him anymore (I can’t remember what, but I know we had a strong difference of opinion on one of my driving manoeuvers!).

My brother continued to take me driving (with frequent stops to pee at the side of the road due to nerves!) and my Mom stepped in to take my Dad’s place. My Mom was very patient and would encourage me to practice backing into that parking space as many times as necessary to get my confidence up.

In addition to driving with family members, I completed driver training with Young Drivers of Canada. My instructor was fantastic and put in a lot of extra time to help me feel more confident about my driving. He had to completely change his teaching style for my lessons and would always be on the lookout for tips and tricks that would help me to succeed.

When I finally took my G2 test, I was incredibly nervous and felt like I was taking it more because everyone else expected me to than because I was ready. At one point I was so focussed on the left turn that I would be making that I ran out of lane on a road that merged. Needless to say, I didn’t pass.

I don’t do well with failure. I stopped driving for quite a while and had a very poor attitude about it.

Not my finest moment.

I’m pretty sure that I took the test again almost a year later without passing . . . but I’m not positive. They all kind of blend together!

Then, Mr. Mechanic entered the picture. We started dating when I was in my last year of high school and he was in his first year of college. He lived in an apartment on the other side of the city and it was a very long bus ride to go back and forth between our homes. He had a car, but it couldn’t be driven in the winter. Eventually, my Mom started offering him the use of her car on the weekends (thank you, Mom!). Out of necessity, my driving practice resumed. With my Mom and Mr. Mechanic’s help, I was able to re-gain my confidence as a driver.

When I took my test again, the examiner felt the need to walk me through all of the driving skills like backing into a space and parallel parking (I can still hear him saying “walking feet, walking feet” as he reminded me to slow right down when backing up). It was more like a lesson than a test. It didn’t look good.  So, when he told me that I had passed, I said “thank you, sir!” (I don’t say sir) and got out of the car and into the MTO to be processed as fast as possible before he had a chance to change his mind!

I drove with my G2 for several years and eventually had a car of my own to drive to and from supply jobs. When my license was up for renewal, I found a loophole and took the G2 test again instead of the G test because I had not driven on a highway since my only highway driving lesson. I needed a license to get to work and didn’t want to chance not passing. I definitely made the right call.

When I passed, Mr. Mechanic said to me “next time, you’re taking your G and you’re not leaving it to the very last minute.”  My license expires on August 26th. My test was on July 10th. I was cutting it close!

After procrastinating for a few weeks, I finally booked the test in April and started to wrap my head around highway driving. I would make myself feel sick just thinking about it.

Mr. Mechanic’s older sister volunteered to be the first person to take me highway driving and she was an incredible help to me. Having recently completed the driving test process herself, she completely understood my fear and had a lot of tips and tricks to share.

Our first trip of the year to the cottage was another opportunity for some highway driving. I wasn’t about to drive with Muskoka cottage traffic, but farther North the highway sees much less traffic. I did the back and forth drive on Home Depot runs a few times while we were up there.

Then, July arrived and I had to enter full-on driving test cram mode. We would go out on evenings and weekends but I was still very nervous. Mr. Mechanic suggested that I look into taking some refresher lessons from a driving school. I contacted Young Drivers and arranged for two lessons – a 45 minute city drive and a 90 minute highway drive.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Scott, my instructor, managed to teach me how to successfully parallel park and back into a space in under 20 minutes. He also told me that I wouldn’t have to back in for the test because too many people were hitting other people’s cars on the test! Phew!

The next day we did the highway driving lesson and after 3 practice loops, I knew exactly what to expect for the test, had driven on the 401 for the first (and second) time ever, and felt confident enough to move on to more city practice. Scott showed me the typical test route and I continued to practice this with Mr. Mechanic as I got ready for the test.

On Monday night, I slept. This was a good sign. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, got ready and did a test-run of the route before pulling into the examination center. It was my first time driving on the highway by myself. I had to merge onto the highway behind a construction vehicle that wasn’t even doing 70 km/h, but I did it. On July 10th, 2012 I felt like I was truly ready for my test.

As I waited for my turn, I was even relaxed enough to be a sociologist.

I watched all the teenage drivers as they apprehensively circled the parking lot with their instructor and backed into their spot.  I’m not going to lie, there were several times I was worried for the safety of my car!  I observed a few success stories, and one entertaining stomping hissy fit thrown by a teenage boy who I’m sure didn’t pass.

When my examiner arrived, I was relieved to find that it was the same friendly woman who had taken my information when I registered. She told me to take a deep breath and head off to the left (after reading the rules – which included a reminder that I could not answer any sort of mobile device while taking the test!).

I was calm, I took my time and I did everything to the best of my ability. I rocked it!

It is such a great feeling to know that I passed the biggest, hardest test the first time. I feel completely different when I drive.

Some people have their G license by the time they’re 18. I got mine at 31 and I’m still very proud of that.

Now, with that out of the way, my summer vacation can officially begin!

If you’re still with me, thank you!

I hope to have a crafty weekend now that I don’t have to spend copious amounts of time driving aimlessly around my city :)

What are you up to this weekend?

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P.S.  How old were you when you got your license? Scott told me that the oldest student he ever had was 74, and she passed both her G2 and G tests!

P.P.S. I was not endorsed in any way by Young Drivers, I just think they’re awesome!


  1. Congrats, Claire. I wasn't in any hurry to get my license either. I liked riding my bike all over my hometown. I waited until I was 18 (not as long as you!) but all of my friends had been driving for YEARS by the time I joined in. I DID get my license before my sister who was 2 years younger - that was a priority! My driver's test was VERY easy - we had a horrendous snowstorm the night before my test and there was still too much snow everywhere during my 9am test, that I didn't to parallel park or drive on the highway. : ) Where are you driving to next? Michaels? White Oaks Mall? TAG?? Enjoy every minute of your freedom!

  2. That's so exciting Claire! Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment and Young Drivers is so happy we could be a part of preparing you for the road ahead. Safe driving :)

  3. Way to go Claire! That does sound complicated.. Im glad you stuck with it. I started driving at 16.. and my dad taught me. My mom didnt have the nerves :)

  4. Congratulations Claire! It's a big accomplishment and you should be very proud of yourself. Hope you find a great way to celebrate this weekend :)

  5. Wat to go Claire! That is awesome! Driving didn't come easy to me either and I still can't parallel park (haven''t done it since my test over 10 years ago!). The worst was learning to drive manual. I ended up in tears every time my dad took me out! You are not alone! Enjoy your weekend!

  6. Came across your blog while looking up info about the G2 test. I am having a similar experience, trying to get my G2 in my 20's :) My test will be in a month or so but it has definently been a journey.


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