It was like 1991 and my driving test all over again. Over the weekend, my stomach was churning and I couldn’t sleep as I thought of Monday morning – and my bus test!
At 5am I left home in Gosport and headed for Bristol, where all First bus drivers are being tested after the local examiner sadly passed away at Christmas.
The last time I went to Bristol was in 1996, so my anxiety only increased. As if a driving test in a 40ft long coach was not nerve-racking enough, it was going to be in an unfamiliar city. It just added to the tension.
Was I good enough? Was I ready? Memories of hitting the railings at Stokes Bay returned.
‘Shut up Rick’ I thought to myself as my instructor, Hayley, had said I was ready a week ago.
I was so pleased that myself and Rob, who I trained with, had a female instructor. Her cheery, friendly manner made the whole experience less daunting as stories of what past male instructors used to do were shared. The bad old days!
So to the test. A sunny morning in Bristol and at 8am I began. My mouth was dry and my heart was pumping as I attempted reverse parking. I was so nervous my hands were shaking.
Then to the hour-long drive. I didn’t even notice us passing under the Clifton suspension bridge, or by the SS Great Britain. At one point, I reached for the gearstick on a mini roundabout and completely missed it.
But then I settled down. I was driving well. Manual gear changes were smooth. The examiner started to talk about the weather. Was this a sign? Had I passed?
Yes was the answer. But then there was a 40-minute test where I had to answer questions like ‘how would I check the security of the vehicle if abroad?’ and ‘complete a full safety check’.
Drivers are really put through their paces to gain their Category D, but Rob and I got there.
I think I was nine when I first wanted to drive a double-decker. On Tuesday, that childhood dream came true – and now I can drive the first bus on the new BRT route! What next? Lorries? Aeroplanes?
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