Never one for long periods of inactivity, Nigel Drummond led the way out of the house. An imposing figure, he brought out a little fear in all his students. His ramrod straight body attained a height of six feet. He had short, dark hair, which at fifty five years old still showed no sign of grey, and a matching moustache. The clear brown eyes were always alert, never missing one detail, and carried a sparkling twinkle. While most times humourous, he was absolutely serious when conducting lessons and this must have worked as his students had an exceptionally high pass rate. Altogether he gave the impression of a retired army colonel, which indeed he was. As he strode down the path one could just see him in uniform on his way to inspect the troops.
As Andrew was walking to the car he was going through the five things that needed to be checked before starting any car. Door, seat, handbrake, gears and mirror. He also reflected that at twenty one most people had already been driving for a few years. He was starting late and finding it harder to pick up than someone of sixteen or seventeen, Also, he was perhaps further hindered by the fact that he had never been interested in driving or cars before. He saw a car only as an instrument to get from A to B. Now he wanted to drive so he would not have to rely on others for transport.
Seated in the driver’s seat, Andrew went through the five points again. Door closed. Seat in a position where he could reach the pedals comfortably. Handbrake on. Gear lever in neutral. Mirror in position. Satisfied that he had complied with all the checks, he put on his seatbelt and started the ignition. The engine purred while he set the controls. Clutch down. Into first. Little acceleration. Life clutch to biting point and hold. Check mirror. Look behind. Clutch up. Off we go. The car moved off smoothly along the road. Andrew gave the car some more acceleration and changed into second gear and, seconds later, third gear. Nigel had said nothing during this time. He did not believe in interrupting when everything was going right, not even to give a word of encouragement.
A little way down the road Nigel told Andrew road pull in.
“I’d like you to do a turn in the road,” he said. “I want to go the other way but didn’t ask you to do it before because I don’t like pupils performing outside their own homes. It tends to make them much more nervous if the family is watching.
“Yes, I understand,” said Andrew, as he set the controls into the starting off position. He looked in the mirror and then over his shoulder. All clear. He lifted the clutch just enough to let the car move and turned the wheel sharply towards the right until it was full lock. Just before the car became straight with the kerb, Andrew pulled the wheel back and stopped the car. He set the handbrake and put the gear lever into reverse. The gear did not engage properly so he put the gear lever into neutral and lifted the clutch. Then he pressed the clutch again and this time the gear engaged immediately. Then he pressed the accelerator, a little more than usual to stop the car rolling into the kerb. He took the handbrake off and the car stood still. He then looked left, right and behind. Having confirmed that all was clear, he lifted the clutch a fraction, threw the wheel to the left. The back of the car edged towards the opposite kerb. Just before it touched, Andrew stopped the car and put on the handbrake. He slipped the gear into first, set the controls and, as the road was clear, set off, bringing the car onto the correct side of the road.
Andrew was extremely surprised at the way he was driving that morning. Never before had he driven so faultlessly. Usually his lessons had numerous stops in them while Nigel went over the mistakes he had made. This morning, as far as he could see, he had not made any. It could not just be because of his newly acquired eyesight. On the other hand, the recovery of his sight had put him in such a good mood anything was possible. He was in too good a mood to be angry with anyone, even himself, and it was himself that he became angry with the most. He did not like failure and could really take it out on himself if he was making a bad job of something. This morning, however, was different because he as was not prepared to become angry at his own mistakes, he had made none. That must be the answer.
The car travelled along the road back the way they had come. Andrew had his eyes glued to the road so he did not see the same hawk he had been watching earlier hover over some other tasty morsel. Nor did he see a small cat which was stalking some birds on a lawn further on. If he had, it may well have occurred to him that so often there was something preying on something else, whether it be bird, animal or man. The difference was that bird’s and animals preyed on other life for survival but man, the cruellest of God’s creatures, stalked his prey for a variety of reasons. True, we have hunters, fishermen and the like to supply us with food but what about the people that prey on other people. Not policeman who stalk criminals but those who use others to gain wealth and power. These people think that the rest of the human race for the rungs of a ladder to help them attain the heights they desire, to be used and discarded at will. These people cheat, lie, steal and kill to obtain their wants, taking advantage of other’s generosity, good nature and pity in the process. Then there are others that just like to see people suffer, their warped minds getting a sadistic pleasure from their foul deeds. Sometimes the prey has an aversion to being used and will fight back. The hunt then changes, the hunter becoming the hunted and with his back against the wall, he will fight tooth and nail to keep what he has, however dishonestly he appropriated it. He may, by some stroke of luck or genius, escape to become again the hunter trying to rid himself of his tormentor. And so the hunt goes on until the inevitable kill when there is no hunter or prey, just a victor, the survivor.
Andrew was to learn this lesson in the future but now his mind was totally concentrated on controlling the car. They had turned left into the south bound road, driving towards the centre of town. The lights at the crossroads were against them and Andrew pulled up behind a queue of cars, put the gear into first and applied the handbrake.
“Straight on, Andrew,” Nigel directed.
The lights turned green and the queue of cars began to move. Andrew set the controls, released the handbrake and set the car in motion. Suddenly, when they were on the other side of the crossroads, the car in front stopped by the kerb. Andrew had been driving a little too close and did not have the room to swing out to overtake, so he stopped too.
“We’ll have to wait for the lights to turn red so that we can back up a little, unless he moves before then,” commented Nigel.
It turned out that this was completely unnecessary. The following events took place so fast that the obstructive car was moving again within fifteen seconds. The car had pulled up by a girl on the pavement, presumably Andrew thought, to ask for directions. The girl went over to the car to speak to the driver, then suddenly she started struggling, trying to pull back from the car. It looked like the driver had hold of her arm. Immediately, a large man got out of the back of the car, grabbed the girl and dumped her unceremoniously on the back seat. He then jumped in himself and the car screeched away from the kerb and up the road.
“By jingo!” exploded Nigel. “After them boy. You just steer. I’ll manage the controls.”
Tune in next time. The first learner driver car chase? Penned 7 or 8 years before Naked Gun.