Don't accelerate

I should've written about this a long time ago, but somehow I ended up writing this instead, and already everything that I've planned to say - from the I'm-going-back-to-school pun to the unlucky horoscope to the occasional SpongeBob SquarePants reference - has become totally irrelevant. How fast time flies, eh?

Today, though, I'll end up writing about something as obscure as, say, instincts.

A lesson I couldn't forget from anthropology class three years ago was that humans don't have instincts. Well, what our professor said was, we shouldn't be calling it instinct, because it's a totally different thing. Alas, I don't remember what that is. (I don't even remember the professor's name, either.) I don't really remember anything else, but whenever someone in the media talks about our apparent instinct to survive, this thought always comes up, even if it's just half of it.

For the past two weeks, I went through seven different cars and five different driving instructors. Perhaps it isn't really a good thing, especially for a person like me who's a sucker for consistency. I struggled with the clutch in each of the seven days, because each has a different working level, although thankfully the car's enging doesn't conk out as much as before. (And, to boot, I won't be driving a car with manual transmission.) As the days passed - as I got my footwork right, my turning in shape, and my eyes trained steadily on the road - I was able to point out my problems, and made my instructors' jobs easier. One day I tackled my turning problem; the next, my struggles with parking uphill. Most importantly, perhaps, is how much I risk the people to the right of the road, because I'm scared of hitting someone to the left. The instructors always take the wheel from the passenger seat and, well, you know.

Today was, however, the culmination of my driving lessons. For fifteen hours, I actually learned to drive, and perhaps trained myself to make others' lives miserable. Today, however - thanks to my dad scheduling me for five straight hours of driving, as if it's a grand finale of sorts - I was left alone by the instructor. "Isipin mo na lang, kaibigan o kapatid mo ako," my sixth instructor said earlier. "Pero nakatutok pa rin ako." It's the ubiquity of custom-built double brakes.

And, as expected, I was driving the car, from Las Piñas to Tagaytay. I was playing with the steering wheel with surprising ease, and I was working the pedals pretty well, after I realized I wore the wrong shoes. I was overtaking vehicles, even, maybe sounding the horn when I have to. From Tagaytay, we went on an unplanned drive through Amadeo, with neither of us knowing where the road will lead us, or whether we'll have enough fuel for the remaining three hours of driving. Eventually - after unpaved roads, slow bicycles and the ubiquitous jeepneys - I was in Dasmarinas, and then back to the mall, wretched and all, but finally finished.

Of course, I'd still have problems. Today was the first day my instructor resorted to the hand brake, because my shoes - those trusty Rockports - somehow makes me feel that I'm stepping on the brakes when I actually aren't. I had some close calls, but they weren't that close. I still had the blind spot to the right, but I'm getting around to it. In the end, it was a weird five-hour drive, from one city to another, and then through heaven knows what, and back.

Yesterday, my instructor was pretty confident that I got around to driving. "Automatic pala gagamitin mo," he said, as I navigated our way through Las Piñas traffic. "Hindi ka na mahihrapan. Okay ka na."

Then came the blind spot again.

"Hindi naman nakukuha agad ang driving in twenty hours, eh," he said. "Yung instinct, taon bago nakukuha. Kahit yung marunong nga, namamatayan pa rin." But at least I'm driving well. I just made another good turn.

Perhaps they should be teaching this to everybody. You might get the refresher or the thirty-hour beginner course, but nothing beats experience. You'll not get it right at the end, because nobody does, and perhaps that's reason enough for prospective driving students to stop bashing themselves in the head whenever the engine dies because they worked the clutch badly. Perhaps SpongeBob should know this to make things easier for him. (But then again, he's been to driving school for so long, and he doesn't seem to learn anything unless when blindfolded.) But, as everybody always says, things take time, and only when you're used to it will you be able to sense what's coming and what's going wrong. Call it instinct, I call it something else - regardless, we all agree on this one.

I usually end my driving lessons with a courtesy greeting to the instructor, for lack of a better term. "Next time ulit," I'd usually say. Today, though, my instructor knew it was the end, and instead had a simple "good luck" attached to the departure. I can only smile, thinking about what will happen when I finally take the wheel on an automatic transmission vehicle. There's no clutch, so it's definitely easier, and I might be doing errands to far places in no time. Well, provided that I start making sense of that blind spot to the right.

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