Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

There isn’t a day that goes by without someone asking me the question “what made you become a driving instructor?” Followed instantly by them saying “I couldn’t do it”

I always ask them why they feel that it wouldn’t be a career choice for them and the answers range from having no patience, sitting in a car all day being boring to it being “a death wish”. To which I do always laugh, as I never thought about that when I made the choice to become a driving instructor, if anything it was the variety and unpredictability of the role that appealed to me.

Recently I have on occasion questioned it myself, one such situation was during a fleet assessment drive. It was an early summer morning and I had had a great drive to the meeting point, blue skies all the way and birds singing.

Needless to say I was looking forward to our meeting I mean why wouldn’t I be, a beautiful day and a drive with a full licence holder and hopefully some great conversation.

For the purpose of this blog I will refer to the client as John (to maintain confidentiality), he approached my car 10 minutes after I arrived with a cheery smile and a warm hello. John was about 5 ft tall with sandy brown hair and a small frame.

He told me he had been working with the company for a couple of years and was looking forward to the drive. Sounded like the session would be a good one, we set off in a 7.5ton lorry and John began to recount some of his daily responsibilities.

We were driving along the south west coast breathing in the sea air, feeling the sun in our face and naturally the conversation became more relaxed and John started to tell me about some of his previous road incidents.

I use the term loosely because they really were accidents waiting to happen, the road had changed from coastal to in town and John had just finished recounting a particularly ‘hairy’ moment he’d had the day before.

By now I had been both amused and un-nerved by John’s tales and had seen some flashes of madness in his driving so my inner antenna was already on alert.

John had told me the next stop he had to make was at an industrial estate, one he knew well and so he was on familiar territory.

The lorry wasn’t the most comfortable you could certainly feel the road and all its glory!

We had just passed a high street on which I had had to ask John to be mindful of his speed, and we were approaching a narrow hump back bridge. I noticed that John appeared more distracted and was becoming more animated with his conversation and hand gestures.

I again asked him what the speed limit was and if he could keep both hands on the wheel, literally as I finished talking a car came into view at speed on this narrow bridge.

The lorry was jolting around as we were still at speed as if it had a mind of it’s own, John appeared to be in ‘brain freeze’ with his mouth open mid-sentence and his eyes wide open in disbelief.

Without thinking I checked the mirrors firmly told John to apply his brakes whilst I grabbed the steering wheel to move us to safety.

The little lady driving the oncoming vehicle also applied her brakes and managed to stop in time.

I don’t mind saying, I was sweating like a sauna the white shirt that I was wearing was now appearing see through in parts. I apologised to the lady out of the window and could see she was ok.

I asked John what happened there, he just looked grey and said he didn’t know and thanked me for intervening. We were lucky no one was hurt and that both parties managed to clear the bridge.

After about 5 minutes of me debriefing John and asking him what we could have done to avoid this situation he turned to me and said “I’m sorry Kenny I should’ve known better because I had an accident on that bridge two months ago”

Well that surprised me, I wasn’t sure why John didn’t approach with more caution through learning from his previous experience.

The session continued on a more sedate pace with John listening to every bit of advice I gave and we worked on the fixes to the scenario by revisiting that route and practicing the advice I gave.

At the end John was very grateful his cheery demeanour was back and he gave me a warm handshake despite me having recommended more training.

This session reminded me of the unpredictability of my days and the varied personalities I meet but it also reinforced that you never know what you are going to encounter on the job and that it is a bit like ‘russian roulette’ where you don’t know when the bullet will be fired.

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