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the greenhorn

It must be something in the stars, or the start-of-the-year prediction that 2008 would be a bad year for transportation, or probably simply the tragedy of pride and egocentricity.

Everyday this past week, the evening news carried terrible reports of vehicular accidents all over the country, with most cases happening in the streets of Metro Manila, and often involving buses. These accidents resulted in property damage, bodily injuries, and worst of all, senseless deaths.
I am a relatively new driver. Although I learned basic driving skills as early as twelve years old, I never had the chance to fully develop these skills until very recently, when in September of this year I was entrusted the care and use of our car.

This feat was not without any hardship, I tell you.

My friends found it very amusing to see me so apprehensive over my driving licensure exams with the LTO sometime in June. Some claimed to know people who know people, who in turn know someone who could help me get a license without going through the process. Unfortunately, those people who knew people who knew that someone was not available sooner. (I know…I myself am lost here.) Anyway so I went through the process, and proved that my anxiety was not without basis…I barely passed the written exams. Shame, shame. Well, come to think of it, the multiple choice questions given were vague, with some modifying phrases misplaced, making it doubly hard to guess the answer (ok fine, I’m trying to justify my ‘barely passing’ grade). If that caused serious anxiety, imagine what suffering the prospect of a practical driving exam gave me. My examiner might have sensed I was in sheer panic and desperate for a license, and since I was able to lecture on corporate registration while undergoing my practicals, gave me a passing mark. Whew!
Finally, my left hand on the steering wheel, my feet on the clutch, brakes and accelerator, respectively, and my right hand always grazing the gearstick (good grace, I don’t even know what that’s called) and the handbrakes..I was on my own, out of dire necessity. Driving alone in Baguio City’s busy, narrow streets for the first time, it felt like I was so unprepared and inadequate for the task. But I had no choice, there was no guide beside me to instruct when I should change gears, when I should use the handbrake, when I should halt, or yield, or go. I would be very, very careful, mindful of everything within a mile of my car, and even insecure with the feeling that all others on the road were far more competent than I was.

For this reason I seldom became irritable or hot-headed while driving. I would be very patient and would oftentimes give way, thinking that the other driver probably knows his traffic rules better.

Anyway, I was never in a hurry. When you’re new at driving, you tend to give sufficient leeway, even time-wise. Since you are aware that you do not yet have the capacity (and courage) to drive fast, you see to it that you leave early to provide ample time for your reasonably slow, cautious driving.

Maybe this is the answer to the alarming rate of vehicular accidents – to be like first-time or new drivers again. Most road accidents occur because the drivers concerned deem themselves kings of the road, or God’s gift to highways, who always know better than anyone else. This is why they end up not giving way, or running at speeds aimed at defying gravity, to the detriment and harm of other drivers who may stand in their way.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see really polite, law-abiding, disciplined drivers in our streets? Drivers who would give way, conscientiously observe traffic rules, and not wield profanities at the slightest provocation. Maybe our experienced drivers should recall the time when they were greenhorns, and put forth the attitude of humility, respect for others and kindness when on the roads – like it’s always their first time.

“Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.”
– Author Unknown

sunstarbaguio. 13 nov 08.

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