Thursday, June 07, 2007

L Stands for Loser

TSA has been preoccupied over the last few days by the business of preparing, taking and failing a driving test. Second time as well. I rationalised it to myself somewhat by using what I have termed the Fine Gael Analogy: to wit, that my first failure was so heinous as to be comparable to the Blueshirt 'meltdown' of 2002, and yesterday's performance, while fundamentally still a balls-up, was at least a restoration of self-respect.

The Enda Kenny of the highways, that's me.

I actually thought I'd done fine, though. Obviously the tester disagreed, given that he failed me. I'm not saying he thought I was a dangerous driver, but I'm sure I heard the rattle of rosary beads at one point. I'm not saying he feared for his safety, but I think I saw him tearily looking at a photo of his kids as I careened off one particular roundabout. I'm not saying he thought I shouldn't be let near a car again, but he handed me a brochure entitled "Walking Holidays in Ireland" on my way out of the test centre.

Of course, the glorious anomaly of the Irish driving testing system is familiar to all. Namely, that the state hands the empirically-proven failed driver a certificate which is actually entitled "Statement of Failure to Pass a Test of Competency to Drive", and then, like Pontius Pilates with clipboards, send them back to their car to drive, incompetently, homeward.

But it wasn't this fact that I mused on as I motored away, clattering bus-stops and mounting kerbstones as I went. Instead, I couldn't help but think of Jimmy White, Monty, Mayo footballers, the Buffalo Bills, Greg Norman, Gareth Southgate, Stuart Pearce and the rest. The bottlers. The people who, on the big day, when the hand of destiny was extended in their direction, rather than grasp it confidently, chose to thumb their nose instead.

Was I like Jimmy White, destined to fall foul of the Stephen Hendrys of the world, doomed to falter in the face of opportunity, running out of position on the black balls of modern living? Was I like the footballers of Mayo, hepped-up for the big day, talking confidently of (forty quid a pop) lessons learned and how it would be different this time, then going and cocking it up royally anyway?

It's one of these little insights that those of us unblessed with athleticism or skill get every now and again into what it might be like to be a proper sportsman. Not that there were 20,000 spectators lining the road as I performed a three-point turn, rather in the sense of being required to perform under duress, to produce a result when the pressure was on. I, alas, blazed the crucial penalty high over the bar and into the Turin night sky.

Of course, sport often offers the chance of redemption. Someone like Phil Mickelson has demonstrated how the L-plates of sport can finally be disposed of just when it seemed that taking public transport might be the better option. And two of baseball's three great loser clubs (Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox) have in recent years earned American sport's equivalent of the HGV licence, the World Series.

But I can't help but come back to dear old Jimmy White again, whose wait for a World title Samuel Beckett might have written a play about. Am I destined to turn up at the test centre every year, claiming to be in the form of my life and that I have been practising harder than ever, and that I even went to a psychologist to get me 'ead right? And then, much like Jimmy exiting in the first round at the hands of Marco Fu, will I run the first stop sign to dash all my fans' hopes again?

Perhaps I will learn to be philosophical about it, and will become much-admired for my good humour in the face of constant failure. They might come to call me 'the People's Learner Driver', and I will become a living emblem of the motto that it is not the winning that counts, but the taking part.

Or I could just learn the Rules of the Road, I suppose.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Third time luck Tom, and remember you always have to stop when the light is red or even wait for the filter!!!!

2:06 p.m.  
Anonymous PaddyC said...

And you can look forward to a tim flowers style speech when you do pass... "that second time, you thought i didn't have the bottle, but it took bottle to get back in that car, and i showed today that i got bottle"

4:08 p.m.  

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