My Fear of Failure - An Albatross
The deadweight of the rotting Albatross I was lugging around was weighing me down.
Day and night, I was consumed by fear, uncertainty and doubt. Knowing I had no choice, my fate sealed. The reality; Butch's sight is compromised. If we continue to believe that our retirement dream to travel as far as our Honey Badger and budget could take us, I had to get my heavy-duty, code 10, driver’s license. That’s the bottom line.
Covid19 gave me a reprieve, and a measure of amnesia followed as I spent months walking the circumference of our building, baked bread, and cakes and prepared spicy Moroccan Tagines and fluffed couscous. Thoughts of reversing into a dock vaporised like a summer breeze.
At last, our status changed, and we were able to resume our lives. Winter had set in. Dark storm clouds, rain and snow, depressed me and then one day Butch asked: “have you made your appointment yet?” Could the world swallow me? I wished. Mr Visagie, the previous examiner, had spat me out. How would I survive the mortification? Every smirking traffic officer remembers my legs, shaking uncontrollably. My only thought at the time, to jump on the brakes and fling myself melodramatically from the truck I was driving.
I had no choice. One spoon at a time I’d eat humble pie. I would resume driving lessons, my only option. I had until the 27th of November to get sorted. On my fingers, I ticked the months, July to November, four months.
I felt nauseous, but, pressed the digits to call Kalla my driving instructor. He just laughed and said “Fine!” Twice a week I’d make my way to the instruction grounds, and by Jove, I’d do it. Somehow I’d master the reverse. I’d engage all my faculties to remember the blind spot, mirror, mirror, mirror, and blind-spot even if it killed me.
Each time the hour drew near a gigantic UFO would settle above my head, I was like a kid hoping the school had burnt down over the weekend. Dragging my feet, I’d procrastinate until the last minute, stalling my departure to the lessons. I’m so busy I’d tell myself. Only my commitment to the classes and Kalla, kept me going.
Six weeks of lessons, and then, out of the blue, Kalla asked: “have you made an appointment yet?” That was my cue to head off to the traffic department. But, forewarned is forearmed and this time I was going to be ready for them. I had Covid19 photographs taken, no make-up, no lipstick, bushy, grey eyebrows, and greying hair, tied back severely. I posed ramrod, chin up and out.
At 9h00 one sunny Tuesday morning, I stepped into the queue, 47 people were waiting in line. In single file we stood, 1.5m apart, masks on. Inside my handbag, a book. Furtively scanning behind me I slipped the book out and began to read. By 10h30 we’d not moved. The day was hotting up, and we were like lambs to the slaughter. Docile.
Most people had caps on and were turning them to shield their faces. Some of us slithered to the ground and sat down. One or two older folks moved to the shade of an oleander bush. I called Butch, who was busy fitting rims to the Honey Badger and asked him to bring my hat and a bottle of water. Both a lifesaver. Heat radiated from the face-brick walls.
At 11h00, a fashionably dressed lady arrived, she took one look at us and went straight to the front of the line. Authoritatively, she demanded to know “what the hell was going on here?” She was smartly told to hold her horses and get back into the queue. The diminutive disinfectant sprayer was having none of this, she had her hands full, what with filling in forms and admitting us.
Then it was tea time and the slow trickle of cashiers, traffic officers and receptionists flowed out chittering. From pockets and handbags, cigarettes appeared while others stretched their legs. As clouds of smoke billowed and diffused, the queue’s conversations turned to the acquisition of illegal cigarettes and the government. This was the cue for smoker’s to light up and take long, satisfying drags on their acrid ciggies.
The sexy lady’s feet started swelling in her hot pink stilettoes which pushed her blood pressure up, causing her cheeks to flush. “What the hell do they think they’re doing in there?” Flinging her arms akimbo she exclaimed that “the whole bloody lot are useless and incompetent. Taking tea breaks when they’ve not even started working yet.” The floodgates had opened, and there was no stopping her. She fanned her face with a rolled up Die Son tabloid newspaper and readjusted her sling bag onto her drooping shoulders.
At 11h45 we shuffled forward like condemned men. I wished I hadn’t worn a spencer, Viyella shirt and cardigan as I slipped out of my jacket and tied it around my waist. No one knew how long we would be there. I had to sip sparingly on my water and only took meagre sips to wet my parched lips. I lost interest in my book but kept it open as a shield in case a riot broke out. One never knows who has the tear-gas these days.
A latecomer, in uniform, stepped out and was accosted by a gentleman associated with Stiletto lady, who, after he’d given his account of the appalling situation, beckoned her over-enthusiastically. The cop took one look at her, sized the case up, threw his cigarette down on the sparse, wilting lawn, and made a dash for the door while grinding down on the smouldering butt. A cloud of dust camouflaging his polished boots. He beat a hasty retreat. We became despondent and debated the possibility of returning the next day. I promised I’d be back, clad in a red overall.
At 12h45, I stood in front of the cashier with my money, a smile and a friendly greeting. She responded wearily and offered me the next available slot for a driving test, November. Impossible, I told her, I needed one sooner. Somewhere something must’ve clicked as she looked at my desperation and said: “Ok Gogo tomorrow at 14h30.” For a few moments we glared at one another, she relented and said she’d talk to her supervisor. In a moment of clarity, I spat out “I’ll take it!” She said, “Gogo, do it; tomorrow’s your lucky day; I know it.” Her eyes belied her true feelings.
This time I wasn’t going to let my nerves get the better of me. I had an arsenal of tranquilisers and GenPain to cover all my anxieties. I’d done a guinea pig test and found myself chilled and calm. Relaxed, but not doped.
At 6h00 the next morning, I swallowed my first tranquiliser. Google said it was fine. At 12h00, I popped two Gen Pains for my stiff neck, and at 13h00, I slipped another tranquiliser nonchalantly between my teeth. Puff Adder mode. Chilled, but ready to strike. I massaged a good dollop of Voltaren into my stiff muscles.
To test my faculties, I went to the driving school and did a few reverses in my platkar (sedan car). It’s an automatic, so I did speed into the dock, but, didn’t knock over the cones. Thumbs up.
At the traffic dept. The queue was centipeding sluggishly to the door. I couldn’t afford to be late, so I jumped the queue and reported to Disinfector. She told me to wait waving her spray bottle dismissively.
Accompanied by my instructor, we walked the course, and he explained all the obstacles again, this time, I comprehended and made mental notes. Crossing my fingers, I hoped I wasn’t too tranquil. Back in the queue, my leg started shaking slightly as the clock struck the appointed time. All good. I wasn’t stoned.
Eventually, a young man, dressed in civvies, stopped in front of me, introduced himself, Mr White, he’d be my examiner. I couldn’t resist telling him my maiden name was Knight. I wouldn’t forget him. EVER. He smiled at that. Good start.
Determined to get this 100% right I focused, listened intently, and followed his instructions to the T. Still anxious about the Dock reverse (I had watched the YouTube clip a 1000X too) I proceeded. I confess I did wobble a few times, but, didn’t stall the truck, kept going when I thought I’d had my chips and in a flat spin, perspiration soaking my back, I parked that baby perfectly. One could say I rocked that truck… literally.
On the open road I would nail it I thought confidently. The meds were kicking in now. But, as luck would have it, just a few meters from the Police station, an inebriated man, arms flailing, stepped, precariously, off the pavement swaying like the Michelin Man in a strong breeze. In the nick of time, he pirouetted, and I missed him. Poor Mr White got the fright of his life and exclaimed “be careful you’re going to hit him” his voice rising an octave or two. I’m sure he realised I had nerves of steel and could handle the situation perfectly… or I'd cooked my goose and would be back in November.
We made it back to the traffic dept. Just before closing. This time I didn’t mind waiting. The cashier beamed when she saw me, saying; “Gogo you made it. I told you this is your lucky day!” She has a good memory and remembered I’d told her we’re going on holiday in October and promised she’d “mark my application for a license as a “priority”, and fast track it!” Next week I’ll enquire whether it’s ready and take a cake for tea.
I still wake up at night in a cold sweat momentarily thinking it’s a dream and the nightmare’s not over yet. To reassure myself, I open my wallet. I whip out the pale green temporary license and promise myself I will have it framed soon. The fearless Spidermen in my life are my inspiration.
Now I can proudly say, "I’m a trucker!" Last week I was in the driver’s seat, all the ladies on the farm waved, beaming, I waved back. Just a few kilometres later, I passed a staff vehicle on the Brandwacht road driven by a female truck driver. We rock.
I hope Butch remembers the bottle of Moët, to toast my success, while the sun sets in the Kgalagadi.
I’ve mastered the GPS Garmin Overlander; we’re just waiting to have it linked to my website so that our families can follow our journey. Every new skill we learn, and master, empowers us and we should celebrate the fact that we’re still able to do so. Sometimes we’ll fail, that’s all right too.