Argh. I’ll be so late for my driving lesson. This Uber driver decided to get lost so I waited over 20 minutes. That never happens. They are always right on time. Anywho, I can’t wait to tell my instructor the weekend drama. Thanks to the Pope, I haven’t been to class since Tuesday. So I got tired of waiting and decided to take matters into my own hands. I am literally that driven.

I was going to drive my dad’s car on that road near home that never has vehicles on it. I’m not exactly sure why it was made that nicely but it was. Maybe some bigwigs live along it. I figured it was the best place to do it as I would not run into vehicles and/or cops. How wrong I was!

I’ll begin by telling you that this plan was not that well-thought-out. I have this thing of late where I am not shaken by the things that would normally shake me. Say, talking to a stranger or protesting when a matatu dude overcharges me. A few months ago, I’d protest if anyone asked me to try drive a car. I have my instructor to thank for the confidence. Then the ladies around me who are all driving around. You know I’m that rational feminist who once wrote this and said I could not drive a car. And that one friend who told me that I should take the car where I want it to go. Anyway, I had not scribbled or printed out a huge red L for this said car. Mostly because I thought the odds of running into another car were next to nil.

We got to Gitaru and dad and I switched seats. Mind you this was the first automatic transmission car I was going to drive since my training. I was not anxious at all. The last time my brother made me to do it at this exact spot, I couldn’t move. I made the mistake of hitting acceleration before steering away from the ditch. My brain did tell me to hit the brakes though but I was completely damaged after that. All the same, Kim still commandeered the vehicle and let me “drive” for a while after that. Now here I was with fam, its 4 out of 6 members waiting for Shiku to show them where the driving fees were going towards. Lol.

No clutch of course. Great. I hate that thing. For a long time the instructor would tell me to change the gear and I would always forget about the clutch and change the gear kimalamala. Or how the vehicle stops in traffic when you stop for too long. Argh. And you have to go back to gear one. For crying out loud! What. Is. The. Point? Anyway, I shouldn’t be complaining at this point. I shouldn’t even be writing before I face the music in Karen.

Alright. Start. Handbrake. Drive. I move at a snail’s pace. Dad who’s not that confident that I can actually steer hangs on to the wheel. I protest. Dad, if you don’t let me do this, there’s no point. He lets go a bit. We go down the road and turn towards Kanyariri. No vehicles as expected. Just people. People here walk like they own the road. I don’t blame them because I’d do the same thing. Like I said, there are no vehicles 99% of the time.

The problem with this road is the bumps. Bumps the size of Mt Kilimanjaro. You will understand, then, that every time I’d go over one, mum, Mark and Claire would shout at the back because of the scraping sound. I don’t know if it’s just our Kikuyu family that does this, but hurting the car bottom mentally hurts everyone in it. I tried to make it better eventually but it was a struggle. I was feeling good about this. Mark was not sure why I was using both feet though. Up until this point, I had not realized I was doing it wrong, using my left foot on the brake. I blame the clutch. Hadi I landed in Quora to read the one foot vs both feet argument. Not making that mistake again. Other than that, all was well. Until it happened.

There he was. A dark blue figure raising his hand at a distance. Crap. I thought. Why is he stopping us from so far away? He can’t possibly be that hungry! I mentioned that there was a cop but dad kinda ignored the fact and we somehow kept going. The cop did not relent though. Dad grabbed the wheel from below and we pulled over a little ahead of the cop and his buds. Hazard on. Mum makes a whisper of a prayer.

Habari zenu?
Mzuri.
Mko salama?
Kabisa.
Can I see your driving licence.
This is how people end up in prison. I think. Perfect.
Niko na PDL.
Leta hiyo tuone.

Bag is passed from behind. I find the paper in between my driving guide book. He looks at it. Scrutinises it. Things happen fast. I know he’s concerned that I don’t have the red L at the front and back. He is also concerned that I’m taking an entire family along. Apparently it’s better if just me and dad had an accident. He says that he is going to lock me up. At this point I could have been a smart alec and claimed to know my rights, but I shut up. I let dad do the talking. He flagged another car down. He walked to it and left the Ngigis freaking out. Except dad and I, that is. Lol. I have no idea why I was not visibly shaken.

He talked to the lady with the car at the front and walked back to us, still clutching my PDL. He asked if we’d gone to church. Where we lived. Why we were driving with kids. Why dad had a belt around his neck. Yeah, dad be cray. A million things. At this point mum was apologising too. I was just nodding and smiling. Eventually he handed me back my PDL and said that he would let me go because of the child at the back. In that brief moment of me holding on to the piece of paper and him half letting it go, I almost felt like I was going to melt in my seat, thinking he’d change his mind. I thanked him and said sorry again. And then instantly walked out of the car and handed over the reins. I was not going to keep driving, lest he changed his mind.

Riding shotgun, I thought about my whole transformation into this girl who is driven to drive. About how I could hardly wait to drive for real on my own. About how a cop showed up on a road that made no sense and welcomed me into this world. About how I was almost done with lessons and couldn’t wait to freak out on that test day, on the driving board. I have never been more driven in my life. And then I looked behind and saw it, the reason that policeman let us go. There she was, in the middle, completely destroyed, sobbing, wiping away tears from her eyes. And for once in my life as a firstborn, I was more than glad my baby sis cries at the slightest provocation. Or, in this case, the threat of her big sister going to jail.

L plate

Now where’s that marker pen?

Written by Shiku Ngigi

Mum and dad’s daughter. Shouting big sister. Learning to listen. Jesus freak. Recovering tomboy. Mouse potato. Bass addict. Waking up the writer in her.

    9 Comments

  1. mjero December 1, 2015 at 1:14 am Reply

    Oh my what a funny, scary story! Driving for me was a chance to prove myself and to counter entrenched stereotypes about what women can and cannot do. In my family, it was implicitly stated that the girls would drive the “small” car for driving lessons and the boys drive the “lorry” so that they get a BCE DL while the girls only get the BC. I refused to go this route and drove the lorry! But then no one was ever really confident in letting me drive a manual car, and so I could only drive an automatic gear car for five years! Until last year, when given no option, I learnt to drive a manual car, and to drive it well. Nothing has ever felt more physically freeing – shifting the gears of a manual car and revving the car to 100kph!! Your piece just reminded me of what that moment meant to me. To drive a manual car and to hold a BCE licence for me has been to dismantle stereotypes of what women can and cannot do based on my socialization.

    All the best with your exam, and keep driving! I’ve gotten caught by police several times, but acting apologetic and stupid always gets you out of trouble. Any children, as you mention, help a lot! First time I was caught by the cops, I had two kids with me! But ultimately, be safe, observe the 50kph rule where they are required, and use the “L” sign till you feel confident 🙂

    • Shiku Ngigi December 1, 2015 at 7:18 pm Reply

      Haha! No way I was going for a lorry if I’m not going to be driving one in the first place. Thanks Miriam!

  2. David December 1, 2015 at 9:14 am Reply

    Hahahaha thats funny

  3. DiamondMark December 1, 2015 at 10:19 am Reply

    Enhe!
    Driving school mimi huyo and like mjero am going for the lorry kwa nini
    Ion good for you Shiku, well done.

  4. hannahakinyi December 1, 2015 at 11:43 am Reply

    Sigh! I was sweating on your behalf. I am glad to say I have passed that stage in my driving skills. I don’t enjoy driving but I can get myself from point A to B in one piece.

    • Shiku Ngigi December 1, 2015 at 7:21 pm Reply

      One piece. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  5. Laban Ndwaru (@labanish) December 1, 2015 at 11:29 pm Reply

    Shiku, what an amusing story! That cop wanted some kitu kidogo ….unfortunately your small siz cried it off the officer!

  6. Dickson Otieno December 2, 2015 at 8:03 pm Reply

    LOOOL.

    I thought for some moment you were actually arrested and went to jail. Now that would have something. Pole.

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