How long can you push something forward that you have to do? What if it’s something you want to do, should do, could do? Which are your favorite excuses, to make sure that you postpone your tasks, activities, chores? Will you do them now or tomorrow, maybe next week? How about never or, when you have time for it. When do you have the time for it? Now? Seems like as good a time as any, but you don’t feel like it. You’ll feel later, but then there is no time. It’s gone and you’re busy and it’s here. Did you do it or are you still waiting?
It takes about six months to go from ‘I don’t know how to drive’ to ‘I can legally drive alone now’. Granted you pass all the tests and examinations in one way or another, don’t have any infractions in your next two years and you’ll be granted the full version of your license. All in all, two and a half years, and you’re done with it until you go in for your motorcycle license. The show starts almost all over again. I know this, because I’ve walked the path. It took me three years to get my first license, but there was a thing with that. Then it took me another four years to actually earn my license. Add the two years of ‘junior’ driving and my total comes up to nine years. Nine years went by between me walking into my first driver’s ed lesson and me walking out of ARK (Department of Motor Vehicles) with a permanent driver’s license in hand.
A long long time ago, back in 2010. Then a 17 year old me had just convinced my parents to put me through driver’s ed. It was unremarkable in every sense of the way. Plenty of boring classes and incompetence on the test track. It wasn’t exactly my first time behind the wheel, but I was pretty god damn clueless. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the teacher yells at you, but the first time still gets you. I had just met the guy and I already didn’t like him. A minute later, when I reached the first intersection, I found out the feeling was mutual. I wasn’t fast enough on the clutch when the light turned green, so he started yelling at me. Which in turn made sure that I killed the engine and prepared myself for what was to come. I dreaded going to that drive with him, but I pushed through. Stories about the experiences my friends had made me consider that I’m actually lucky. I’d rather get a person with anger issues than someone who has a more “hands on” approach to driving.
The rest of the story is about me being lazy. So lazy in fact that after completing all the lessons, all I had to do was take the damn tests. Sign up, learn and go take it, three very simple steps. I “stumbled” on the first step of difficulty. Buckle down and open a book. Read motherfucker, read and learn. Just fucking do it already. Would’ve been easier if I did, but I didn’t. I “forgot” about until someone brought it up and made me feel sorry for myself. Sorry, for being a lazy piece of shit. There are so many excuses, and I used them all. I even went as far as to leave the country. Can’t take the tests if I don’t live in Estonia anymore, right? No point in learning, if I can’t even take the tests. That’ll make things way easier to forget, right? It’s not like I’ll need to drive cars in Australia, right?
Clutch, Break, Gas. Clutch, Break, Gas. That’s the first lesson every five year old petrol head learns. In it’s essence, driving a car is fucking basic. Steer the wheel, smash the pedals, handle the stick, know the rules and be careful. At least that was enough for IVAN when he got tired, but we had another 300 kilometres to go. It was my turn to drive and I better learn fast. Even today, we can’t agree which one of us felt more uncomfortable the first time. Me driving on an open highway, doing the 110 speed-limit and not hearing screaming in my years or him letting me drive his most beloved White Saber. It’s still fun to think about, that the first car I felt comfortable driving in, was an old Toyota from the 80’s.
Now I know what you’re thinking – “But G, you ain’t got no license. How you even driving a car? Aren’t you afraid of the police?” I was and I think we both were, until a rumor we heard came true. After we had that big car crash, where our life was a coin toss for the ages, we were taken to the hospital. Since IVAN was the one who suffered the most, he was in another room where they did some special examinations on him. Which meant the police came up to me and asked to see his driver’s license. Fact was, neither of us had a legal document that would validate our ability to drive a car. I just gave them his wallet and said that his license is in there. After a few confusing minutes later, they came back to me, his ID card in hand, and asked if that’s the license. “Sure is, officer.”
For me that was the moment the ball started rolling. I was driving “legally” now. Police pulls you over, show them the ID card. Need to register a car under your name, show them the ID card. It worked every, single, god damn time, no exceptions. Matter of fact it worked so well that I was actually able to acquire a proper driver’s license. During our stay in Northern Territory I bought myself a Range Rover.
Big fuck off car that drank petrol like it’s going out of style. Showing up in the local DMV to get the paperwork in order was supposed to be another day in the office. until the guy behind the desk said something odd. You need an NT driver’s license to sign cars under your name here, but don’t fret, I can get one for you.
Now the standard procedure in converting a foreign license to a local one is not difficult, but involves taking tests and passing exams. Lord knows how or why, but I was exempt from that. There were plenty of other Estonians there, waiting for their turn to show of their mad skills, but not me. Oh no, I just had my picture taken, paid the nominal fee and I was out the door. Car signed under my name and brand new, legal Northern Territory driver’s license in hand. I had finally succeeded in what I had started three years ago in Estonia, and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.
When you see blue lights in your rear view mirror, you know you’ve fucked up. Even if you didn’t do anything, this feeling will stay with you until the officer walks back into his car. Unfortunately in my case that wasn’t true. I had just bought a car in Estonia and I took it for a spin with my friend. A black 92 BMW, a classic in Estonia. It’s a car that comes with a lot of history and baggage. When the police took my license and were perplexed to see that it wasn’t a local license, I knew I’d be in trouble. Maybe trouble isn’t the right word here, but I definitely had some explaining to do. After thirty minutes of back and forth in the police car it was obvious. I’m not allowed to drive in Estonia, unless I have a document to prove that my NT driver’s license is valid. An international driver’s permit is what they called it and I didn’t have it. They actually let me off with a warning that time, because I was still confused and baffled that I hadn’t done my research. I hadn’t learnt from my mistakes, and I didn’t do it then either.
Just a week later I decided to drive to work, because I was “running late.” That’s code for wanting to sleep an extra 30 minutes in the morning, instead of taking the fucking bus. I got to work safely, did my shift and just as I was backing up in the parking lot I hit another car racing past me. Hardly even a dent, but that was it. The police got involved and I had fucked myself, like an addict with six tabs of Porn-hub open. I didn’t know the severity of it back then, because I thought that what the hell – I’ll pay the fine, I’ll hit up IVAN and he’ll drive my car home. It was going to be a stupid story we’d joke about next week. It wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t.
Long story short, I got a no from everyone and everywhere I turned. My driver’s license was useless in Estonia. If I wanted to own and drive a car, I needed to go back to square one. Don’t pass Go, don’t collect 200, just straight back to school. Do everything all over again, and this time I’d be paying for it. The car I already owned? It would sit in front of my home for a solid year until I finally sold it. I never used it again, and it showed. During winter, it was entirely covered in snow, so you weren’t even able to see it. The seats got wet, so mold started growing there. The engine did start, because it had been sitting for so long. It wasn’t a classic anymore, just another rust bucket, waiting to get retired. I sold it at a considerable loss when the landlord started telling me that I either drive it or get rid of it. It’s not the best piece of decoration, and I couldn’t agree more.
Now this is the part of the story, where you imagine that things will finally start going up for old GLive. I’ll attend school, all the exams and lessons, be all proper about, and I was. Nailed every single assignment, with just one goal in mind. Finally getting that elusive Estonian driver’s license. I got back to the point, where it was time to start learning for the theoretical exam until I got hit with some bad news, some really bad news. My old friend Karma wasn’t done fucking me, she was just getting ready for the last round.
See, the law states that it must be at least one year between your last traffic infraction and being eligible to take test at the local DMV. Looking at the calendar, I was safe about six months ago, but here’s the catch. That one year margin doesn’t start from the moment of the incident, but from the moment the fine is paid for said incident. The kicker was that I had gotten my fine about 5 months ago. Why you ask? I don’t know. After multiple phone-calls and talking to people who work in that field the best answer I got was, no idea. It took the Estonian police a year and half to process my incident. A year and a half to read the paperwork I had written and signed, where it clearly stated that yes, I am guilty. Yes, I’m a fuck-up and should penalize. A year and a half…
I’m not lying when I say that it broke me. I couldn’t take my school tests if can’t sign up for the national exams. So there’s no point in me learning the theoretical materials now, because I’ll forget most of it by then. It’s not as simple as just pointing at a stop sign and explaining what it means. It’s a butt fuck and a half and I was tired of getting rammed. I had lost all interest in even getting my license. When the time rolled around where my one year “probation” was up, I had almost convinced myself that I’ll never a licence. The public transportation is “amazing” in Tallinn. Trains, planes go everywhere else and who cares. It’s fair to say that I had given up. Fuck this.
I disliked my job, I was mentally exhausted from my now ex-girlfriend, I was unhappy with my life. I dreaded waking up and going to bed, just so I could start this ride all over again. I’ll forever be stuck on this endless grind and I’ll end up miserable and unfulfilled. I would be a quitter, and that’s what I was until something showed up on my table. A job offer, something really good, but it came with a catch. I need to have, you guessed it, a driver’s license. The catch was that I needed to acquire it in the next few months, which theoretically was possible. I had a goal, something to motivate and drive me. Almost like a man lost, who has finally been given a map to the finish line. Do this and it will pay off.
Like a mouse, running through the maze, chasing a piece of cheese. I hit the books hard and nailed my theoretical exam. Two days later, my driving exam was completed and I was able to sign up with the DMV. Another week later and their theoretical exam was crushed. I was on fire and only the last hurdle remained. The most dreaded one among Estonians. Passing the driving exam at ARK on your first try. As far as stories go, most people don’t pass on their first attempt. Heck, a lot of people actually do it outside the capital, because it’s way easier that way. There were so many stories, how the instructors would fail you, just so you’d have to come back again. Pay them more money, do more lessons, anything to pump more euros out of your pockets. After three months of waiting, I was finally sitting in that car, sweating profoundly.
Even the instructor saw my hands shaking a bit, so he asked my way and I told him. I told him about all the stories I’ve heard, all the news articles, rumors, speculations and everything. The fucker just smiled and asked me if I can drive. I told him I can. “Then show me.” That was the last piece of advice he gave me, before I stalled the car driving out the parking lot. “It’s the unfamiliar clutch”, I explained, hoping that this wasn’t how it was going to go. Ten minutes later, we were still driving, I had calmed down and we even started chatting. He told me about his daughter, his job and even some of his hobbies. I mentioned some of my experiences in the land down under and suddenly our fifty minutes were up and we were back where we had started.
I did it. It was over. A week later I picked up my “junior” license, got the new job and started getting my life back in order. Two years later I finished the last remaining lessons and I haven’t looked back since. Almost ten years it took me to get to this point. All those ups and downs and I’m finally here. So many moments where I could’ve played by hand differently and none of this would’ve never happened. Had I studied the first, had I done some research into International drivers permit before leaving Australia, had I not driven when I wasn’t allowed, had I just not been a fuck-up. This isn’t an inspirational story about one mans perseverance against all odds. It isn’t even a cautionary tale, about mismanagement and laziness. It’s just my life.