“Don’t get too cocky, Aisling. Not every lesson will go well.”
My mother’s words were quite prophetic. Days after returning from Sziget festival, lessons five and six were on the horizon. Not to exaggerate in any way, but after the week-long festival I was quite literally dying. I couldn’t breathe deeply, exhale quickly or giggle slightly without exploding into an unrelenting, blood-curdling bark. The outburst would last for several minutes until my eyes were streaming down my face and I was d-e-a-d dead.
Not having driven for almost three weeks, one could say I was rather unprepared for the lesson. Setting my alarm for 8am, naturally, I dosed off and woke at 8:53, approximately four minutes before my timely instructor pulled up into my driveway. To make matters worse, I had lathered my hair in a leave-in hair mask the night before with the intention of it being washed out that morning. Looking like I’d been caught in an acid rainstorm, sockless, and wearing a pair of Canterbury’s and my old school PE jumper I’d grabbed from the top of the charity shop sack, I was certainly lacking the holiday glow one might have expected.
“Howaya missus, are ya alright?” asks my instructor with obvious concern. Speaking for the first time that day with a throat full of Exputex, it was obvious from my reply that I was not okay. Concentrating more on not unleashing the chesty beast than actually driving a car, I cut out about forty times and began breaking out in a cold sweat. As I tried to take in how to reverse around a corner I became acutely aware of the crown of grease on my head. At what point would it become suspicious that my hair had not dried at all in two hours? Similarly, the turnabout manoeuvre was taught as I neared another coughing fit. As all energy was focused on taking short, shallow breaths I’m sure it sounded like I was having contractions in the front seat. Quite frankly, as my cough neared the summit and my sweats increased, childbirth seemed like a more welcome experience.
Throughout the lesson I was force-fed ‘Fisher Mints’ from a small tin by my instructor. When asking what they were I was told;“They’re jus’mints. Gowan. Stop ya coughin’.” He called them just mints, I called them small drops of fire. As my tongue quickly dissolved into nothingness, I now had a new bodily obstacle to compete with. A few tissues later and I thought I was finally in the clear for the remainder of the lesson.
Driving home, I recollected my visit to Prague as we compared my pokey hostel with my instructor’s “bleedin’ savage” hotel. “Did ya see the big clock? The crowds at it.” It was a distraction at least.
Upon arrival to my house my instructor reluctantly allowed me attempt to reverse into my driveway – a move which almost marked the end of his wing-mirror. Sitting in the car debating when my next lesson would be I could feel a familiar feeling emerge. Don’t laugh, don’t breathe, don’t speak, I told myself. The wrath of my chest had returned and I wheezed and choked relentlessly, knowing there was no escape from this one. My eyes watered and I gasped for every breath, fanning myself through the sweats and attempting to apologize/ laugh it off.
“Jesus Christ missus. Get back inte bed – you’re dyin’.” Knowing a recovery wasn’t coming until the winds changed, I struggled a smile, exited the car and waved him off, sending my cat into porcupine mode from my bark.
It was an all’s well that ends well kind of morning. You can repeat the lesson, but you can’t repeat the craic.
By Aisling Bonner