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Tackling Unfinished Business – The Challenge (Part I)

We all have unfinished business to deal with. Oh, come on, you know what I mean—a screwup still salvageable if you put in the effort, a phone call or decision you can’t bring yourself to make, a routine checkup constantly postponed, paperwork printed out but unfilled, a failed test never retaken, words left unsaid and dormant projects.

These chores or potentially unnerving challenges don’t go away on their own. They remain on a to-do list or at the back of the mind. We’re only human, after all. There’s only so much we can accomplish.

I had unfinished business too. I tiptoed around it for… ahem, ten years.

I finally tackled it.

I’ve just completed stage 3 of the Ontario’s graduated licensing system. I took and passed my (hopefully) last driving test ever.

“But, but… didn’t you have a driver’s licence?”

Yes, I did. Well, kind of. See, getting a driver’s licence in Ontario is a three-stage process. I had parked myself at stage 2—the G2 licence you’re definitely not supposed to keep for ten years. I should have taken the final highway road test to graduate to a full G licence years ago.

But I didn’t. I chickened out.

Getting a driver’s licence was yet another cultural experience in Canada and I embraced countless of others. What went wrong?

Well, it all started in France. This is where I learned to drive when I was 18. I sailed through high school and university and exited the French education system mostly unscathed. However, my brief driver education experience wounded my confidence.

I failed the test after the 20-hour mandatory practice with an instructor. There was no second chance—I didn’t have the budget for it plus examiners went on a long French-style strike shortly after.

Frankly, it was a relief. I expected to fail (national success rate is 57%) and I knew I wasn’t a good driver.

Then I came to Canada and Feng stated I needed a driver’s licence. I shook my head no, as if my one failed test in France meant I was forever unfit to drive.

“But everybody has a driver’s licence here! You need to learn how to drive! Just get it as a piece of ID at least!”

I bought a copy of the Ontario’s Official Driver Handbook for $14.95 and read it in my spare time—I didn’t speak much English so it was also a way to pick up new words.

One day, Feng took me to the drive test centre to book the written test. No appointment needed, I could take it right away!

“Wait… Seriously? I can just show up and take the test? I don’t need to be registered with a driving school, take classes for months and wait for a spot like in France?”

Apparently not. Indeed, getting a driver’s licence in Canada is a bit like a DIY project.

Thirty minutes and 40 multiple-choice questions later, I learned I had passed. I took the mandatory vision test, paid $159.75 (the fee includes the knowledge test, a Class G2 road test to earn the G2 licence and a five-year licence) and I was issued a G1 licence.

The G1 licence, the beginner driver licence designed to gain practice and experience over time, comes with a major restriction—you can only drive with a passenger who has held a full driver’s licence for at least four years. I didn’t mind. I mostly used my driver’s licence as a piece of ID.

In 2009, I got my first office job. I felt confident. I had my own office, a salary, a BlackBerry and an employee ID card that gave me free access to the Parliament and other restricted areas. I was grownup enough to take my G2.

I practised with an instructor and booked a test.

After driving around a residential neighbourhood for twenty minutes, then performing a three-point turn and the dreaded parallel parking manoeuvre, I was deemed skilled enough to—gasp—get a G2 licence and drive alone. I smiled (not for the picture, though) and gratefully upgraded my licence but Feng drove us home.

Where do people get the required confidence to operate a metal box racing at over 100 km per hour? It blows my mind. That said, I also find it quite weird a human being calls me “mommy” and that people pay me money to complete work they apparently can’t do—I constantly feel like an impostor.

I got behind the wheel when absolutely necessary. I drove Feng around various hospitals when Mark scratched his cornea. I operated the manual-transmission car we rented in France thanks to my French driving training. I drove to many malls with Mark when he was a baby.

Five years ago, I realized my G2 licence was about to expire. I should have taken the G test—except I chickened out and found a loophole, so I took the G2 test again. I passed and promised myself I would wait for the mandatory 12-month period to take my G test but that I would deal with it as soon as possible.

Oh, I waited alright—like five years. Life was busy, the weather was snowy but mostly I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I could fail.

Last September, I received a letter from the Ministry of Transportation. I immediately stuffed it in a drawer. I knew what it was. The five years were up—I had to take the final highway road test to get a full licence or lose my licence.

The September 2019 "Notice of novice driver's licence expiry"
The September 2019 “Notice of novice driver’s licence expiry”

I toyed with the idea of taking the G2 test again to buy myself more time.

Then I looked at myself in the mirror, spotted new white hair, and told myself to grow the fuck up and take the proper road test.

(To be continued…)

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