Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

But to offset the timewaster described in that last post, I’ve had two new pupils this week.

The first one yesterday has no experience at all, but is a quick learner and he’ll have no trouble. He was a referral from someone I taught last year. The second one today got my number from Yellow Pages and although she has limited experience I think she will also be a quick learner.

These go nicely with a new pupil who started with me last week. Three pleasant, easy-to-get-on-with, eager-to-learn young people easily offsets one timewaster.

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Well, I lost one today.

This guy always had cashflow problems and stopped taking lessons for a few weeks after about 5 hours because his boss wasn’t paying him (something to do with cheques clearing), then his boss decided to pay him monthly so he stopped lessons again for about a month. Another problem was his phone – he’d text me, then not reply if I texted back because he’d ‘run out of credits’. When he phoned me it was usually from a different phone each time – and that includes different mobile numbers.

He started lessons again a few weeks ago, then on the second one (8am in the morning) I got a voicemail at 7.03am informing me the machine had ‘chewed his card and could he have the lesson and pay next time? He would get a new card from the bank when they opened.’ This was from a witheld number, so I could only try and use the existing numbers I had for him.

I texted and said he’d not get a new card that easily and I didn’t want him to get in debt, so we’d cancel the lesson. I asked him to confirm later in the week that last Saturday’s (the next) lesson was OK and that he could afford it. I heard nothing. I tried calling him and all the numbers for him were unobtainable or produced no reply. I then cancelled all lessons, and texted him to say I had done that.

I got a voicemail from yet another mobile number yesterday saying he had been waiting for me for the last two lessons, and then added that his phone had been locked. Great! Make yourself contactable, why don’t you?

I called back and got one of those pathetic voicemail messages that go on for ever. So I sent a text explaining that I couldn’t risk turning up if pupils weren’t going to be there or couldn’t afford lessons.

So he’s gone. A lucky get out for me, I think, though I pity the next instructor he ends up with (and I was his second).

Update: Today (the day after this post) he has texted me to say he’d left his phone at home yesterday. So putting two and two together, he dumped me because I didn’t contact him yesterday – even though he didn’t actually have the phone he’d used to call me, so he couldn’t receive any calls I made to him! He says he can do a lesson next Friday! I told him I’m not his instructor any more: I’m well rid of this one.

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Well, the bad weather brought ’em out this weekend.

I was with a pupil on a narrow country lane and we were doing close to 60mph. A woman in a BMW X3 (GV54 VUU) just had to overtake on a bend and with a blind corner coming up – only to stop about a quarter of a mile further on in the village and do what appeared to be the makings of a U-turn as we passed her.

With another pupil, we were doing the Turn In The Road exercise. A woman in a Honda (FM08 VZE) simply couldn’t wait 15 seconds and dangerously squeezed through behind us.

At the end of Saturday I was on my way home and was tailgated so closely I couldn’t see the headlights – this is in heavy rain and spray, of course – by a blue Mini Cooper (FH08 BWE). As I pulled over into the inside lane he overtook and sped off at easily in excess of 80mph, even though he’d passed into a 50mph zone.

Today, I was on my way to a pupil during rush hour and a weasel-boy in a black Clio (X10 ALE) decided that he would jump the queue in the wrong lane, then cut in front of me with less than a car’s length of space available without indicating. I think he saw what I mouthed at him and it was comical seeing him keep his head twisted to the right side to avoid making eye contact in the mirror. Makes you wonder if they actually realise what prats they are if they respond so shyly when someone takes them up over it.

And finally today, I was with my last pupil as it was growing dark and we were doing about 50mph on a 60mph road (single carriageway) due to traffic in front. A weasel in a black Volkswagen Golf (AE53 WYO) overtook in the face of oncoming traffic at about 5mph more than we were doing. They then sat one car in front in the same queue of traffic we were in.

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When you do a lot of driving you listen to the radio for traffic news. But I wish I knew who it was who comes up with some of those adverts!

They’re mostly just stupid, but every now and then you get one that is just so annoying you want to scream.

A couple of years ago – around Christmas – there was one which had children and babies coughing to the tune of Jingle Bells, or We Wish You A Merry Christmas, or something like that. Nasty, wet, catarrhy coughs advertising some childrens’ cough syrup.

Then there is anything to do with Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Listening to and watching actors big up the basic function of eating is annoying at the best of times (even Del-boy, Rodney, or Uncle Albert eating in one of the best and funniest UK sitcoms ever – Only Fools And Horses – is bad), but when you just have to listen… aaargh! Those Kelloggs ads are infuriating – just an excuse to have actors hamming it up by talking with their exaggerated mouths full. You can just imagine the milk running down their chins (and don’t get me started on TV adverts which involve children eating).

One of the latest ones is some idiotic ad for Volkswagen which has the actor mooing loudly (in a kind of accelerating car-kind of way). God only knows what the point is, or what car they’re advertising (because I don’t let it get anywhere near telling me before I turn off or change channels). This follows hot on the heels of a recent safety ad for motorbikes where the actor is saying ‘one-two-three-four’ in a similar way. It hurts your bloody ears. Like I say, the radio goes straight off when one of these comes on.

There’s another current one about tax credits and how to claim money if you earn less than a certain amount. They have this telephone conversation between the agent and a client, with the agent asking three basic questions: ‘Do you work more than 30 hours a week, are you 25 or over, and do you earn less than £17,000 a year’. The client is 26, works over 30 hours (with a snigger), and earns £9,000 (what a loser). The agent then tells him ‘it’s just what you’re entitled to’ – pronouncing the word ‘entitled’ as ‘en-ti-tooled’. Aaargh again!

And there’s a new one today – it’s just telling you about changes to the education system: a few paragraphs of information. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Except that the advertising genius responsible has used about 50 different people to say a few words each, and since all the voices are different – obviously to try and encompass ‘yoof culture’ in its entirety – you can’t focus on what is being said. Listening to it is like getting cramp in your brain.

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Earlier this week, I’d just finished for the day and was driving home when I felt my phone vibrate. When I got a chance to stop and have a look I didn’t recognise the number, so I called back. This was at around 9.45pm – the original call coming in perhaps 10 minutes earlier.

The call went something like this – imagine a very thick accent, very difficult to understand on the phone:

Me: Hello, I’ve got a missed call from this number – you called a few minutes ago?

Him: Yes. I’ve got a driving test tomorrow and I wondered if you were available.

Me: I’m afraid I’m fully booked tomorrow – what time is your test?

Note that I have no intention of taking someone I’ve never seen drive to test – I’m just trying to be polite.

Him: 1.30

Me: No. I’ve got a lesson on right at that time. I’m sorry.

Him: So you’re not available?

Me: No. I’ve got lessons all day and one at exactly the time of your test.

Him: Couldn’t you cancel them?

Me: No, because a lot of these people have tests of their own coming up and they need to take the lessons. I can’t cancel people like that.

And he still persisted in trying to persuade me – I suppose that at 9.30pm he must have been getting a bit desperate.

It’s hard to fathom, sometimes, how the minds of some people work.

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Had a day off today and went on business to Wiltshire. Coming back along the A346 between Ogbourne St George and Chiseldon (just south of Swindon) I was nearly killed by a complete pillock (didn’t get the number) overtaking at speed coming towards me in heavy rain. I had to slam on my brakes and stop to avoid a head-on collision. If that’d have been any of my pupils after passing their test I suspect they’d have been killed either by collision or running off the road down the embankment.

Listening to Rush - Presto, Hold Your Fire, Snakes & Arrows, Signals, Moving Pictures

On the mp3 player today...

Then just north of Stow-on-the-Wold on the A429 I was overtaken in torrential rain by a baby chimp in a black Volkswagen Golf (what else?) on that stretch of road where a whole family was wiped out by an imbecile overtaking in March this year. About 20 minutes later I caught up with him and wondered why – he was driving like a total prat when I saw him the first time, so I hardly expected to see him again unless he was smeared across the front of a lorry. Then I saw the Police car in the queue of traffic in front… clever little chimp! Once the Police turned off near Shipston-on-Stour he was at it again – and he caused an oncoming car to slow down as he nearly had a head-on with them when he overtook three other vehicles in one go. The rain was so heavy at this point you could barely see more than 10 cars ahead.

Finally, the motorway was absolutely solid due the weather and with it being a Friday. On eventually leaving the motorway I was on the junction roundabout (3 and 4 lanes wide, snarled up with traffic at 4pm) and an idiot in a white Inviron van (VD56 AJV) in the left/outside lane decided he needed to be somewhere else, and just tried to pull out in front of me. He was going to go whether I braked or not. He then managed to cross all four lanes in one go and last I saw he was on the inside lane. God only knows how someone who drives a company vehicle can be such a poor driver he is a) four lanes wrong that close to where he needs to be, and b) so stupid that he changes lanes like this in these conditions!

Still, all these examples are great for using with my pupils when I try to get them to understand what sort of pond life they will have to deal with when they pass – and hopefully prevent them turning into pond life themselves.

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OK, so a little bit of yesterday included.

Last night I was in a quiet industrial area with a pupil going over a couple of manoeuvres. She was completing her Turn in the Road and just about to drive forward in pouring rain (and it was torrential) when this thug in a gold Rover, I think it was (R338 SJF) decided he was going to not stop at all and just went for the gap. Both me and the pupil had to brake hard (I can’t take chances when cretins like this are in the area). He drove into the UKMail depot at the end of the road.

This morning I was on my way to my first lesson and an articulated lorry (FY53 EYO), which had just taken a corner on to a roundabout with a turning radius similar to the orbit of Saturn, decided to break the 30mph speed limit on the inside lane in order to undertake me so he could pull out in front and turn right at a mini-roundabout several hundred metres ahead. I was about to say it isn’t often you get lorries doing this, but oddly enough I was with a pupil yesterday and we were joking about how we were doing the 60mph limit on the road we were on, and the lorry in front was pulling away quite rapidly. It must be big business being able to tinker under the hood of an artic…

No Left or Right Turn

No Left or Right Turn

Driving back from this pupil, as I crossed the tramlines and a railway line heading towards the city – clearly marked with the sign shown on the right – a specimen of White Van Man driving an Oriel Printing van (YJ05 YDZ) slowed down, causing me to almost stop on the tracks, and turned left. All he had to do (and he was probably following his satnav anyway if he wasn’t from this area) was go 100 metres ahead, turn left, then left again, and he’d have been on the road he wanted – except legally.

Later, I was near a school with another pupil around lunchtime and we were doing the Left Reverse exercise. Some guy in a Ford people carrier (L4 RLX) decided those yellow zig-zags meant he could stop there. He only drove off when cars coming up behind couldn’t get through, seeing as he was blocking the road as well. But personalized plates mean you can do this sort of thing, right?

But the most overriding feature of today was an overturned lorry on a roundabout. It happened sometime before 11am (and it appeared to be some sort of skip-carrier), because when I drove around the roundabout at 10.45am the traffic had already started to build up and the Police had got at least two three-lane feeder roads coned down to a single lane to keep traffic away from the affected lane and the one next to it. It was already pandemonium.

It meant that I was late to three lessons today. The last one I nearly cancelled, but the pupil was fortunately able to move it back by an hour. This was at 6pm (moved to 7pm). Now, I don’t want to criticise whatever it was people were doing up there, but at 5.15pm there were tailbacks of several miles on all the roads leading to the roundabout and – I subsequently found – on just about every other road within a 5 mile radius as people sought to avoid it. Wherever I went there were queues, and people turning around to try and find alternatives. It was chaos.

So why the hell did it take over 9 hours to move an overturned lorry? God only knows how many days it would have taken if it had caught fire or something.

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It’s not just the bad weather than brings them out of the woodwork!

Driving with a pupil this afternoon and we’re in a busy shopping area. We’re coming up to a Puffin crossing and we’re close enough for the pupil to have to brake quite quickly as they change to red. But this doesn’t stop a complete imbecile in a silver estate car (Y840 JRB) cut in from the right hand lane ahead of us! In fact, seeing as he’s done it within 2 car lengths of the lights (and 3 car lengths of us), there isn’t time for him to stop (even though he was clearly thinking about it) and he shoots them on red.

Then this evening – during rush hour – I’m with another pupil driving through a busy urban area with narrow streets. A white van (SH06 SVG) with a trailer decides that it is just going to stop – blocking both a T-junction on the street, and us – in order to allow the passenger to get out. My pupil checks her mirrors and moves to go past and the moron inside just indicates and pulls off as she draws alongside. Just for the record, the trailer didn’t have a registration plate on it either, adding to the list of crimes this neanderthal has probably been involved in this week as he’s driven to and from work (and it’s only Tuesday).

Having said this, the heavens opened a little later and rush hour became anything but rushed! Typically, a few spots of rain somehow contrived to bring everything to a complete standstill when – if everyone drove sensibly – you shouldn’t really have noticed much difference.

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Out with pupils yesterday, if I was going to list one thing which characterises many motorists in bad weather it’d have to be that they get stupider.

In very heavy rain and spray there was one car (LS51 KGK) which was clearly exceeding the speed limit and cut in front causing us to have to slow down. Then later in the day, also in heavy rain, there was a dark-coloured Corsa (KV05 VAM) which did more or less the same.

As an aside, during a patch of bright weather in the middle of the day, we were driving down a hill and this silver Punto driven by a woman – which had been sort of tailgating for several hundred metres – (WN06 BOU) overtook us between pedestrian crossings and where there are pedestrian refuges all the way down, only to turn right less than 100 metres further on. She could have waited, but then she wouldn’t have been making the really grown up statement about driving behind a learner.

Incidentally, that Punto driver looked like the ink on her licence was probably still wet. This is something else you notice as a driving instructor: the new drivers are often the worst. Probably explains why so many of them get themselves or others removed from the gene pool soon after passing.

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Well, after all that crappy weather at the weekend today started with a crisp blue sky. The humidity that’s plagued us (and kept the aircon in the car busy) was gone. OK. So it’s raining again now, but this morning – and the first day of the month – was a real breath of fresh air (no pun intended).

Most of the kids go back to school this week, the nights are drawing in, and… it’ll soon be Christmas!

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