A Driving Instructor's Blog

Assholes

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virusAlmost every one of these has ‘so can I start teaching again’ after it.

Loads of people have had COVID-19 without realising it

Official ONS statistics suggest 0.25% of the population has had COVID-19 as of the time this claim was made. That’s not ‘loads’. It’s actually a very small proportion – one four hundredth of the population, in fact.

Update: The government is now saying up to 20% ‘have had it’. I’m not sure how they know that, since only 3 million tests have been done, and most of those were on people in hospital, on the frontline, or with symptoms. Test 3 million people who are in the thick of it (or in hospital), and you will get far different results compared with testing 3 million people who have been in almost complete isolation for the last two months.

It’s just flu

Tell that to the 35,000 of the 0.25% (or 20%) who have died from it in just a little over three months.

I’ve had it, so I’m safe

And you can now leap tall buildings in a single bound. But assuming you have had it – a lot of ignorant people are convinced they have because they had a ‘bad cold and a cough’ around Christmas, and ignore the ONS figure of only 0.25% (or latest government claim of 20%) of the population likely to have – you can still spread it around. And no one is sure yet if you can get it again – which you probably will be able to, based on other coronaviruses.

I’ve had it, so I can’t pass it on

Yes you can. Perhaps not by coughing it out, but certainly by picking it up on your hands and transferring it by touching things.

The government said most cases are very mild

Yes. And 0.25% (or 20%) of the population has apparently had it, and 35,000 people have died as a result. Multiply 35,000 by 400 (or 5), and that’s potentially how many could die if the whole population got it based on what’s happened so far. It’s unlikely to be as high as that, but it’s still a Big Number.

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Mr VirusIf you’re sitting comfortably, a little story. Once upon a time not that long ago, Mr Virus appeared. There is no vaccine to deal with him right now. Mr Virus tends to kill quite a few of the people he visits – at the time of writing he has more than doubled the normal weekly death rate from all causes in the UK even compared with a ‘bad flu’ season. Until there is a vaccine for him, he is still out there, doing his virusy thing. He cares not for country borders or skin colour and, being about 45,000 times less wide than a French fry, he cares not for physical barriers, either. Not unless they are very special or very solid ones. He can drift in the air, and he can remain ‘live’ on surfaces for some time. Although he tends to hit those with ‘underlying conditions’ hardest, he has shown quite clearly that he can hit anyone. People with ‘conditions’ tend not to be born with a neon sign on their forehead proclaiming the fact in the first place (though it is a personal choice for the individual to decide if they want one retro-fitting at a later date), but Mr Virus cares not for specific vulnerabilities in any case – he just infects anyone he meets and leaves it up to them whether they survive his visit or not. Many of those he visits might not even know they have a ‘condition’, but these people – including older ones – are not throwaway members of society, and have the same rights as everyone else. But I stress again, Mr Virus’s visit can kill healthy people too. Although his visit seems to have an effect which is proportional to the age of his host, he doesn’t just wait until someone’s birthday or anything, since he cares not for birthdays any more than he cares for borders, barriers, and ‘conditions’. As if to demonstrate this, his visit has recently claimed a 3-day old baby, whereas on the other hand several centenarians have survived it. And finally, Mr Virus is a two-way visitor – he can come visit you, but you can send him to visit others.

The moral of this story is that if you have even a shred of humanity in you, you’ll realise that the Mr Virus problem (aka COVID-19 pandemic) isn’t just about you. Other people are involved – all of them, actually.

In spite of all this, if Uncle Boris lifted the lockdown tomorrow, a huge number of driving instructors would wet themselves rushing out to work. All the dire news about Mr Virus in the media, and the first thing they say is ‘can I work or not?’ They say this repeatedly – and I mean at least once a day – even though nothing will have changed for Mr Virus if the lockdown is eased or lifted. Placing yourself before him will carry they same risks tomorrow, or next week, as it did yesterday, or a month ago.

Misleading (or very unclear) government advice, combined with non-scientific (and even conspiracy-oriented) understanding, doesn’t help. It means that many of these instructors are prepared to teach in face masks – even full-face visors – and nitrile gloves, with all the car windows fully open, and everywhere coated in a double layer of hand sanitizer the moment Uncle Boris says it’s OK. In spite of being short of money, they are apparently going to use a couple of bottles of sanitizer a day between lessons to make sure their car is ‘safe’ (even though Mr Virus is fairly mercenary, and cares not for attempts to eradicate him if you miss a bit, or get any of him on you without realising). They’re also planning to hand out face masks and gloves to their pupils (or insist pupils bring their own). Hand sanitizer of the kind that actually works is running at about £20 for half a litre. Face masks of the cheapest kind are around 50p each (and are single-use and need to be changed every 20 minutes). Gloves are about 25p each (50p a pair).

As for the windows being down – and let’s not complicate the issue by mentioning that it could be 5°C outside – a few years ago I was caught in a sudden thunderstorm on a lesson. The window was open a crack and rain was coming in, which caused the pupil to swerve slightly. I told her to stay calm, gently held the wheel, and asked her to close it. She pushed the wrong button and opened it instead, and got drenched (I was in full control of the steering by now). In addition, you can’t communicate effectively with someone when driving much above 30mph with the windows down because of road and wind noise – and that’s even when you haven’t got your face behind a mask, and possibly a visor, as well. And as numerous people who’ve been planning for it and testing it whilst sat on their driveways have now discovered, if you wear glasses and a face mask, unless it is very tight-fitting – and therefore very uncomfortable – your glasses fog up (as does the visor if you’ve got one on). And that’s before we get any warm weather, which will make it a hundred times worse. And people haven’t even discovered the joys of mask-related zits yet. Or hand dermatitis from wearing sweat-filled gloves for hours at a time. Even worse, masks don’t actually stop the virus. They just reduce the risk. A bit. Probably. And no one knows by how much (‘up to’ 75% minimisation of risk has been touted), even if they do.

One sector other than ours which has been badly affected by COVID-19 is the taxi industry. Taxis didn’t have to stop work, as they were considered essential. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that behind security staff, taxi drivers have recorded the most deaths across the various sectors – even more than care staff (but only just). Mr Virus certainly took advantage of the situation there. But instructors have been constantly whining that ‘taxi drivers are allowed to work, so why can’t we?’ Even when confronted with the ONS report in the media, the whining has become ‘it isn’t fair that taxi drivers can still work and we can’t’. Clueless doesn’t come into it, and Mr Virus is sitting there rubbing his hands in eager anticipation.

Incidentally. although it has been below the radar throughout the pandemic, you might be aware that Mr Virus tends to be somewhat more malevolent towards males than he is to females. Data suggest he is up to twice as likely to kill men compared with women. I do wonder how much more central on the radar screen this ‘minor’ detail would have been had the situation been the other way round, but I console myself somewhat with the fact that I am instead now far more knowledgeable concerning shortages of sanitary products, the demand for female-specific surgical gowns, women’s mental health issues, and what it’s like to be non-binary during the lockdown. Nevertheless, this statistical skew has prompted some female instructors for whom it hasn’t passed unnoticed to suggest that they should be allowed back to work because they reckon 2:1 is ‘low risk’. Clueless.

But back to taxis. Hackney Cabs already have Perspex screens separating the driver from the passenger compartment in back. Consequently, several companies have developed similar screens for normal taxis – even ones which separate the driver from the front passenger. This is a reasonable idea for taxis, primarily because the driver is the only occupant of his cubicle for the whole day, and because he is the only one responsible for driving the vehicle. But it will come as little surprise to discover some ADIs are over it like a rash. At least two I’ve seen online have even had the modifications carried out!

As I already said, a taxi driver is solely responsible for legal control of his vehicle. A learner is not – the instructor is – and to that end, the instructor has to be able to reach the steering wheel from the passenger side. A Perspex screen prevents that. But that’s apparently not a problem if you’re a super-ADI desperately wanting to go out before it’s safe, because it seems that such an instructor can teach verbally and through the sheer force of their will, and does not need to touch the controls at all (you can see where the article title came from). Alternatively, it has been suggested a hole could be cut to allow access to the steering wheel!

Such a screen would almost certainly void your instructor insurance. For a start off, here on Planet Earth, we mere Earthling instructors have real world experience, and we know that we can have pupils who will attempt to take a roundabout the wrong way, or who see a cat or squirrel run across the road 200 metres ahead and instantly try to take the doors off parked cars along the kerb. We know that telling them – even coaching them – not to isn’t very effective in the heat of the moment, and even if it was we can’t take the risk in the split second involved in avoiding 3rd party contact. So being able to grab the wheel is critical, and if you can’t, you don’t have control.

If this screen had a hole in it, allowing access to the steering wheel, then it would first of all be less effective for its original purpose. But what happens if your hand is through it and a collision still occurs? The jolt alone could snap your arm like a twig if it hit the edge of the screen. But what if the collision were serious enough to compress the car? What does Perspex do when it breaks? It certainly doesn’t shatter into safe little cubes like safety glass, but instead snaps. The broken edges are sharp, the fragments can be pointed, and your arm is through the hole trying to prevent whatever it is that’s happening. It’d be like a scene from a horror movie, and chances are you’d not be having any more piano lessons afterwards.

And then there’s the sanitisation issue. A taxi driver is the only one on his side all day. An instructor spends time on both sides. How much sanitizer or alcohol is going to be needed to clean the entire surface of both sides of the screen? If you have four lessons a day, you’ve got to clean your side (at least) in the morning, both sides before the first lesson, your side (at least) after the lesson, both sides before the next lesson, and so on. That’s between twelve and fifteen complete wipe downs for four lessons! How much sanitizer will that get through? And what if you miss a bit and Mr Virus is lurking on that bit? It’s hard enough to get hair and dust out of the gaps between the seats at the best of times, but how easy will it be when there’s less than half the usual space – and as well as the hair and dust, Mr Virus is possibly lurking? Absolutely clueless.

The next argument that keeps coming up is dates from DVSA. When the lockdown began, DVSA initially cancelled tests for two days, and then a week. Anyone with intelligence above that of a peanut knew – absolutely knew – that it wasn’t going to be just for two days, and then a week. I mean, for f***’s sake, even my neighbour’s cat could work that one out. But not most driving instructors.

As the situation progressed during that first week (March), tests were further cancelled and moved to late May and June. Again, my neighbour’s cat was aware that this was just in line with what the government was saying at the time and that it was not a definite statement of when we would be able to start working as if nothing had happened again. My neighbour’s cat knew that the dates would move back again. And yet every single time someone’s pupil gets an email telling them their test has been moved, out come these people with ‘looks like we’ll be back on 3rd June’. Clueless.

Next, we have the idiotic government ‘guidelines’. It stands to reason that while Mr Virus is hanging around, the best way of stopping him visiting is to keep the metaphorical doors (and windows) shut. And doing that has helped a lot – though it would have helped a lot more if the UK population didn’t include so many Neanderthals who think the rules don’t apply to them, and if the UK government had… well, that’s a different topic, and much too expansive to go into here. But instead of sticking with ‘Stay at Home’, Uncle Boris has morphed it into something along the lines of ‘hey, man, chill. Stay cool. Go out, but be careful’. Translation: ‘If you’re a Neanderthal, you can now do what you were probably doing anyway, and now you can officially do it anywhere and the police can’t do anything about it’.

For driving instructors, the first question to come out of this is ‘so, can we go back to work?’ The obvious and crystal clear answer to this, so my neighbour’s cat tells me, is ‘no’. Standard response from instructors? ‘But we are now allowed to car share, so that means we can work’! Clueless.

And it goes on, and on, and on, and on.

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KFC QueueAn article in the local Nottingham Post (have an ad blocker – you’ve been warned) reveals that police had to be called as massive queues built up outside the only branch of KFC to open up in the region.

The combined IQ of those in the queue probably barely made it into three figures, but the really funny part is how KFC are going to handle it.

Even at the best of times, the likelihood of going to the drive-thru only to be told ‘we’re just waiting for chicken – it’ll be about 12 minutes’ is about 50:50, so how on earth they can manage queues of this size is anyone’s guess. Then there is the normal drive-thru procedure to consider.

KFC specialises in attracting the kind of people who drive BMWs and Audis who haven’t got a clue what they’re going to order once they reach the intercom. They’ll invariably have their brood in the car with them, and it’ll then turn into that scene from The Exorcist, with the driver’s head spinning repeatedly through 360° as he or she attempts to add whatever numerous items everyone wants to the order. And of course, it won’t be a normal order – there’ll be tweaks and special requests to customise it.

One they get to the pick-up window, you can be sure there’ll be no more chicken left for you. And God only knows how they’ll manage with the typical two Order Bays in the car park – they need a dozen even when it’s quiet.

It does make you wonder, though, how people can get their priorities so wrong. It’s the same as champing at the bit to go back to work as soon as you’re allowed – even though nothing has changed with the virus pandemic.

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The reality of COVID-19 spreadingSince the Coronavirus pandemic started, one of the most annoying aspects of it has been how all the self-professed ‘experts’ have squirmed out of the woodwork and offered their takes on it.

I am repeatedly pointing out on various message boards that when the entire scientific world is treating this as a Very Serious Problem, the likelihood of some wanker who is getting through boxes of tissues because of being shut up in their room for too long hitting on an alternative and more correct interpretation is similar to that of winning the lottery by not even doing it.

In other words, it isn’t going to happen.

There are the conspiracy theorists, who claim it is manmade. There are those who think it is a hoax, and not as bad as is made out. And then there are those whose heads sound like pan-pipes when the wind blows past their ears.

It was bad enough two weeks ago when people were doing it. And back then, others were agreeing with them.

But to see someone post the same comment today – that China has had 20,000 deaths because of COVID-19, but it has 20,000 a day from other causes – is beyond stupid. Light years beyond stupid.

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Jolly Roger pirate flagI’ve mentioned recently how hard it is to buy certain things because of panic buyers. In many cases, these people aren’t buying for themselves – they’re doing it to try and make a quick buck on eBay or on street corners.

Take hand sanitizer. The usual price of a bottle is around £5, give or take (I don’t buy it often). Right now, comedians like this seller on eBay are selling a single bottle for £24.99. Or this private seller listing a bottle a fifth of the size for £36.99 – and it is shown as ‘used’, as he has actually had some out of it!

Then there’s toilet rolls. My dad buys packs of 10 for about £4 in normal times (I think he goes to Wilkos). That’s about 40p a roll. This clown on eBay is selling them for £1.99 each – and that’s a sponsored listing. And this one is selling them for £8.99 per roll, albeit a bigger than usual one. But this one isn’t – £18.10 (including postage) for four rolls of cheap stuff, so £4.50 a roll.

Out in the real world, last week my local newspaper ran a story (and make sure you have an adblocker if you go here, because local news websites are basically just advertorials with a bit of news squeezed in) where one shop was advertising toilet paper at £1 a roll, and 50mls of hand sanitizer for £8 – 50mls is the same size as a double whisky, which would cost maybe £6 tops in most pubs.

The shop, CBD Gift Shop, claimed it was ‘a joke’. Yeah. Big laughs, eh?

In the same article, Murat Food Centre was advertising a £2.49 bottle of Dettol at £19.99. When challenged, it was apparently ‘a one in 1,000 mistake’. But one which had gone far enough to have signs or labels printed.

A couple of days ago, the BBC ran a story where the chemist Jhoots was listing 100ml bottles of Calpol at £9.99 and 200ml bottles at £19.99. Whoever did it couldn’t even get the maths right, since the bigger bottle was actually more expensive per ml than the smaller, which isn’t how it usually works. In Asda, a 100ml bottle of Calpol is £3.50, and an online pharmacy has 100ml/200ml bottles at £4.99/£6.99.

When challenged, Jhoots said it was ‘a communication error at branch level’ (aka it was someone in the shop’s idea). It must have been the same communication error that led the same shop to try selling Paracetamol tablets at £9.99 a pack, when they were listing them at £1.39 the week before. Even £1.39 is overpriced – you can buy the same number for 30p in most places.

It’s as the title of this article says.

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A press release from DVSA lists some of the reasons given by people for not taxing their vehicles. You can read the article yourself, but I will repeat the list they give here:

  • I’m about to start a prison sentence, so is there any way you could hang on to my ice cream van for six months ‘til I get out?
  • I would’ve taxed my van but my bitter ex put four live chickens in it
  • I know it was untaxed, but I didn’t think you’d clamp cars in a heatwave
  • I forgot to tax it as I was looking after the kids (aged 19 and 26)
  • I couldn’t tax my car as I’ve had man flu and have been stuck in bed for 4 weeks
  • I would’ve taxed the car, but you clamped it so early in the morning (the car was clamped at lunchtime)

I love the one about looking after the ‘kids’.

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PostboxOver the last few weeks there have been reports that Royal Mail  staff are threatening to go on strike over Christmas. There is one burning question in my mind on this if they do strike.

How would anyone bloody know?

Back in September, I purchased something from a seller on Amazon. It wasn’t fulfilled directly by Amazon, and the seller sent me emails with a delivery window. When the item didn’t arrive, they quickly sent me another, which arrived promptly. I told them I’d let them know if the first package arrived, but it never did.

We’re now well into November, and last week I got a card through my door telling me the Royal Mail had a delivery for me, but that it needed outstanding postage paying on it before they’d bring it. I had several parcels expected, so I paid the outstanding amount – a couple of quid – and waited to see who it was who’d messed up so I could claim it back from them (when you order through PayPal and Amazon, you have no worries on that score).

The delivery date Royal Mail had given me was a day last week, but by the day before that all the stuff I’d been expecting had arrived, and there was no indication or reference number that suggested any of those were involved. I was wondering what the hell it could be – I’d forgotten about the lost September delivery.

Come Saturday – and you can probably guess what’s coming – the September package was delivered! It was clearly dated September, but it had taken them until November to action it. A total of 50 days. I informed the Amazon seller, and they kindly told me to keep the second item as a goodwill gesture (so I got a spare of something I will almost certainly buy again at some point for a couple of quid when it normally costs ten times more).

But that’s not the point. The Royal Mail is likely to be hit by strikes for more pay by the arseholes responsible for things like this.

Items go missing on a fairly regular basis for me – I can count on a few a year for sure – and when I contact sellers it is always Royal Mail deliveries involved, and never couriers. You can be sure that I make my views on the Royal Mail well known at that point. What really bugs me, though, is the thought that at this time of year they take on a lot of temporary staff, many of whom couldn’t get jobs anywhere else, and with the occasional stories in the press where individuals have been either stealing or binning the post instead of delivering it… well, you have to wonder.

Then there was that time they suspended all deliveries on my road for a fortnight because a dog inside a house had barked at a postman (we’d assumed he’d been mauled and lost an arm or something until we spoke with the owner). The whole bloody street. We had to collect our mail from the sorting office. And what was funny was that the majority of the houses in the exclusion zone were further away from the one with the dog than all the ones round the back. It wouldn’t have surprised me to discover they’d also forbidden staff to even drive down the road.

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A car stopped by Derbyshire Police - and no crime recordedLook at the photo, above.

Yes, it’s real. It hasn’t been Photoshopped or anything (unless Derbyshire Police are making stuff up), but this is what they found when they stopped a driver doing the school run near Normanton. It appeared on the BBC local newsfeed, so there’s no stable link, but the brief text with it says:

The officer gained the driver’s attention and escorted the car to a nearby garage in Normanton for a replacement tyre.

Derby City Council [DCC] said checks on the car found it was fully taxed and had a valid MOT.

Erm, excuse me, DCC, but the Highway Code says the following:

Tyres. Tyres MUST be correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification for the load being carried. Always refer to the vehicle’s handbook or data. Tyres should also be free from certain cuts and other defects.

Law CUR reg 27

Following the Law link to The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, we see:

Condition and maintenance of tyres

27 …a wheeled motor vehicle or trailer a wheel of which is fitted with a pneumatic tyre shall not be used on a road, if—

the tyre has any lump, bulge or tear caused by separation or partial failure of its structure

I think it is fairly safe to say that the tyre in the photo is absolutely, totally, and unequivocally illegal for use on the roads. Illegal with knobs on. It’s worth at least six points on someone’s licence in that state.

It’s yet another example of the Police not doing their jobs properly. If a male driver had, say, tried to chat up a woman as he engaged in “the school run”, he’d be in the cells and looking at lifelong membership of the sex offenders’ register before you could fart. However, someone “else” on “the school run” has got away with this unbelievably dangerous tyre. And he/she (take a guess which it most likely was) probably had his/her kids with him/her at some point (not to mention everyone else’s kids who had to risk being within five miles of him/her).

You need to be a special kind of stupid to let a tyre get in that condition. I’ve never seen one even remotely like it, and the wheel balance must have been beyond bad. And the driver in question seriously needs lesson in how not to hit the kerb every time they park, because as well as an horrendously dangerous car, they’re also clearly an horrendously bad driver (and don’t forget the month of rain we had this morning, either). But now we know you can get away with all that. In Derbyshire, anyway.

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Hatice Sadir - a normal (but dishonest) womanThere was a story in the media recently about someone who attempted to cheat on the theory test by having a bluetooth device under a headscarf.

As usual, ADIs across the web forums and social media know more about the story than anyone else – even though they only just read it in the newspapers – and it has prompted the usual “ban the burkha” mob to mount their soapboxes once again now that Brexit has given them the necessary bravado.

The woman in question, Hatice Sadir, was Turkish. She spoke very little English, and had failed a test a few weeks previously. It appears that she paid someone £300 for a two-way bluetooth device including specially designed headscarf. She booked a test with voiceover through headphones, and this was therefore audible to whoever was on the other end of her two-way link, and they told her the answers as the questions were read out.

Test centre staff recognised her from her previous visit. They noted that she hadn’t worn a headscarf the first time and were suspicious at that, and the fact she finished the test very quickly – which they found unusual for someone with language difficulties.

You will note from the photograph of Sadir, apparently outside the court, that she appears very westernised. She has a tattoo on her arm in the fashionable mode. The fact that she is (probably) Muslim is irrelevant. However, in their versions of the story, The Sun and the Daily Mail have identified the “headscarf” as a “hijab”, as is their modus operandi these days.

Sadir, a mother of three, was just a very stupid woman who was desperate to get a licence. Her (probable) religion has nothing to do with it. The only thing I find annoying is that she got a suspended 20 month prison sentence, when she refused to identify whoever it was who was providing the service she paid for. It ought to have been 20 months in custody just for that.

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This is the kind of thing you have to deal with when you’re driving on Britain’s roads these days. Complete wankers like the driver of this white Mercedes, registration number KL68 TLY.Vehicle Database Details - KL68 TLY

This was on a 50mph road, with me driving (at 50mph), and there was no one behind me.

If Nottinghamshire Police had managed to at least drag themselves into the latter part of the 20th century, I’d be able to upload this for them to deal with. But no. The only way of even informing them of it is to send my memory card in its entirety, with zero chance of getting it back, and even less chance of them following up on the situation anyway. And that’s coming from someone who has a lot of respect for the police.

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