Driver's Handbook

1 – Back to training

It was yet another trainee’s lifestyle. I hated it since BMT and never would I want to taste it again, if I had a choice.

The only relief was that my ex-platoonmates would be joining me, so much of a fortunate in the suffer. I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t need to stay in camp from Sunday night until Saturday afternoon every week.

Life was a challenge since the first day, when other platoons accused us of using their toilet and dustbin. Then, we saw unfamiliar faces in our toilet instead. Soon, one of our phones was stolen.

I had my first driving of real vehicle on the second day, and I couldn’t believe it at first. I was full of excitement on the circuit’s road but too scared to involve in any accident. I knew well nothing would happen to me if the landrover was damaged but it would hurt me more to put other people (instructor) in trouble.

By the third day, I got sick of driving when I knew I didn’t catch up the skill as fast as others. What motivated me was the fact that my dad used to be a container car driver and I wanted to be as good as him.

Everyone passed their Highway Code test in our first try with more than half of us scoring perfect, thus we got to book out early on the first Saturday.

2 – Receiving the baddies

During the second week, I started to enjoy myself at the Hideout to watch television show with others. It was a good place with large television set and sofas. It was fun to have more than fifty people squeezing and jeering together.

However, assholes spoiled our nights often when they left their seats unattended right after the show. I was amazed with those tattooed gangsters-wannabe, because they could live their lives with so many people despising them, and if I were any of them, I’d have hidden under my blanket to cry instead of going down to the Hideout.

I made my first trip to the public road with my legs in pains. Despites this and the long dragging cough I had, I endured to prevent myself from getting out-of-course.

Unfortunately, with the depression of each day due to poor understanding of the driving skill, it reminded me of BMT life. My cough started since at stagmont camp worsened, probably due to the Muslim food I had for each meal, with my pimples outbreaking. Even though we were indented with night snacks every night, our supply was stolen sometimes.

I got to talk to my bunkmates more and through each conversation brought out my wastage of time all these years. At least this time I had a very good buddy. No doubt, I had to try very hard to withstand lamer who cut queue or smoke like as if it was their fathers’ camp.

3 – Tonner

Driving the 3-tonner vehicle was an insane task. The huge giant had a width so big that it occupied almost the whole of a narrow road lane. It took great efforts to keep the vehicle within the centre of the lane, that you had to keep adjusting the steering wheel to control the cross country tyres.

I didn’t dare to use the horn due to its loud noise which might alarm the elderly near the road. I felt essential to give ways to other road users even when I had the right of ways. Driving was a maze to me.

I had lots of time to do my writing but situations weren’t to my favour most of the time. I couldn’t stand noise, and especially people looking at my draft work. At forced situation when friends requested to look at my notebook, I had to give in.

Sleeping earl had been a habit since I needed lots of concentration in my driving. Besides, I couldn’t continue with my writing when my bunkmates needed rest. I was also trained as a pig to sleep during the to and fro journey between Sembawang and Kaki Bukit daily.

I was annoyed by rashes but I didn’t see any doctor for I didn’t want to get out-of-course halfway.

4 – Guilt

I got so sick of the heaty food and eventually lost my appetite. It was only during the two days cross country driving, good food was catered by other vendor.

My cough that had subsided returned within less than a week, at a higher pace this time. Occasionally I felt like vomiting during invasion of the dry cough. This was the week that I stopped my jogging session with my platoonmates.

The day which three items were tested together slashed my confidence. Leashing was an easy task to me but not on that day when I overlooked the position of the rope. No matter how much force I applied and how tight the tension was, the fatal error gave me a big blow. I was faster than most people during the practises but somehow I had disappointed the instructor. Whereas for the parking test, I spent about half of the ten minutes given to finish the task.

Keeping in touch with other friends was almost an impossible task when I had to face my platoon-mates daily. Sometimes I was bored, but holding to my phone was pointless when nobody replied to my messages.

It was only during early Sunday mornings I could have volleyball games with my team-mates and that was the only enjoyment I could have in my short weekends. And of course, I tried to spend my Saturday nights with my family during dinner.

5 – The pressure

I waited until the leashing retest was conducted. My agony and guilt gave me the drive to overcome any phobia. The teasing by an unknown force sprained my right ankle at the start of the timer when I was walking normally. The sudden setback failed to put me back as I continued to use my right foot to inject tension to the crying rope. The tester was amazed with my speed and remarked that I was rushing for my lunch. I gave no thought of explaining my normal pace to him in my shame for the previous failure.

Soon, fears and wished filled my surrounding as the actual driving test approached. Taking up the course was a normal learning experience to me but now that passing the course had become a big burden to me.

I knew well my instructor would be given a sum of money if I were to pass my driving test in my first try. His salary was low. He was such a great person, someone who tried not to scream at me when I repeated my mistake, someone who gave me encouragement and joked with me. If he didn’t treat me so well, I wouldn’t have feared to disappoint them.

I failed my first test. A change of vehicle seemed to turn me into a newbie. However, I felt relief after the test as I knew I could do nothing to change the fact.

6 – Backlog

Slowly, one by one left the platoon as retests were conducted. I didn’t know if I should feel happy or sad for the passes as they would be going back to their units to suffer. Whereas for me, I felt lonelier with the departure of my friends. Since luck wasn’t on my side, I could only give my best wishes to the pests to pass their tests in order for me not to see them.

It was an unbearable week, the shame to see my trainer almost put me into holes to hide my face. Every failure required another two hundreds minutes of driving and that was the worst torture for someone who had lost his confidence and will to drive.

As time went by, it was obvious that passing depended mostly on luck. Skilled drivers took a few tries to pass, whereas the hopeless ones could do it in earlier stages. This was the greatest moral booster for the remaining, but sometimes we did negatively felt embarrassed.

I was happy when the test was cancelled once, so that none of us had to leave us.

7 – Departure

Clinging on till the last extended week, the few of us were bonded closely together. However, the long slacking hours in the day had exhausted me with my mindful of thoughts, and each night I was baby-sit onto the bed, lying restlessly.

I had no determination to take up more challenges but my instructor confirmed that he had to pay a sum of money if I didn’t pass the course.

The worst punishment was to m
ake other people suffer for me. His words added some nervousness back to me and his patience ad kindness threw in more guilt into me.

I knew well if I ever passed, my life for the next two years might be changed, for the worse I’d have to leave my friends behind but I should unselfishly repay my instructor for all his teaching, so I put on my armour again.

Luck was totally on my side in my fifth test, and the greatest gift was to have the kindest test to sit besides me. I passed.

Leaving my friends behind was the greatest sin, but the fact that the course would end in two more days relieved me.

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