The benefits of biking

Caveat statement:  I took some time to consider writing this particular post.  I asked myself if it would do more damage than good.  But then I concluded that if someone, just ONE person, had shared with me what I know now, I might have been spared this bad experience and saved a ton of money before signing up with this particular school.

I have officially pulled out of  driving school and taking some time to consider if it is at all necessary for me to continue pursuing a driving license. The school that I attended was ANWB – rijschool of Utrecht.  ANWB [Algemene Nederlandsche Wielrijders – Bond] is a highly regarded auto-club.  Many Dutch people hold a membership to this group for practical things like if your car should break down on the highway.  In the US, we would consider this to be AAA.  This is the reason why  I chose this school.  What could go wrong with a reputable institution such as this?  Well, apparently, a lot.

As my lessons continued I found that there was very little help in making sure I knew the rules of the road.  The focus was more on how I steer a car and use a blinker.  Each lesson got more and more this way.  So much so that I started to believe I couldn’t drive anymore.  I even changed my instructor after one very difficult two-hour lesson.  When I made the request for a change I specifically asked for someone who speaks English.  I thought it would make the remaining few lessons I had easier.  Translating and negotiating traffic circles are not easy when your instructor is yelling at you to do something with the wheel, the clutch, and the blinker!

When I got my new instructor it became instantly clear that he did not, in fact, speak English.  He had a great personality, sure, but in the end he told me that I needed an additional 15 lessons!  REALLY?!!  I do not believe that my driving is so horrible that I need a full 25 lessons with this school!  My husband concurred as he said to me, “Susan, I took that amount to get my driving license as a new driver!”  We did some checking and email writing.  Seems we are not alone in our dissatisfaction.  To their credit, they did refund a few of the lessons to us because they realized their mistake with not providing an English-speaking instructor.  Really it wasn’t the English I needed but a better instructor.  The first one sat reclined in his chair the whole lesson while critiquing me.  It was a testing environment , not a learning one.  This instructor did make a point to say to me that he does not like experienced drivers.  

 Recently I was  talking to another experienced driver who went through the same at this school.  I believe the model for this driving school is targeted at new drivers.  They will gladly accept experienced drivers.  However, in order for them to work with you, they will reduce you down to a new driver level and happily, take your money.  They can pull this off by using the guise of a guaranteed pass on the driving exam in their contract.  “In order to guarantee your success we need to have an additional 15 lessons.”   What happens if at the end of that amount I’m still not ready under their “assessment”.   I feel as though I’ve been a part of a big money scam.  Wouldn’t you?

Here’s is my advice if you are in the market for driving lessons:

  1.  Do your homework!  Admittedly, I failed to do the necessary research before signing up.
  2.  Ask friends for recommendations.  Ask about their experience also!
  3. Go to each school and take their proefles (test drive).
  4. Find out if they have English-speaking trainers if that is necessary for you.
  5. Ask if they work with experienced drivers often and what is the success rate of those drivers.
  6. See what they offer.
  7. Then decide.

After this experience I’ve received one bit of advice about going with small local one-guy company.  I’ve also been told that the bigger companies are more likely to do these kinds of things.  Take this with a grain of salt.  Each person’s experiences are usually not a like.  In the future, if I decide to go again, I will follow my advice.  Unfortunately this time out I was enticed by a packaged offer with the guarantee to pass and a well-known name.  This experience reminds me once again, “I’m not in Kansas anymore!”

Learning lessons while playing in traffic

schoolbus
schoolbus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE:  I passed my written test for driving last week!  I am so thrilled to get this first step completed.  The stakes were high because my Mother-in-law paid for this test.  This was her way of showing her support.  I am so grateful.  I have a very loving and supportive Dutch family over here. But it did add another level of stress since I wanted to do her proud.

I’ve begun the process of the driving lessons a few weeks back.  Every Wednesday I meet up with my instructor and drive for two hours (each lesson = one hour duration).  We decided that this would be the best way to get through the ten lessons and get a driving licence faster.  Before signing up for driving lessons I had a practice test.  The instructor pointed out a few bad habits I’ve developed over the years such as how I hold the steering wheel while making a turn.  This is easily fixed, I thought.  I felt pretty confident after this test run.  Now that I’ve begun my lessons I can safely say that my confidence has yet again plummeted.  HOLY CRAP!  Everything from down-shifting, signaling for a turn, to looking in my mirrors is completely the opposite of how I learned to drive in the US.  The first lesson was eye-opening.  By the second, I thought, “I got this”.  But alas, more issues were pointed out to me.  To rewire your brain in something you know so well is not so easy.  Fortunately I have a two-hour block and eventually I snap out of my old ways.

I got a bit of wake up call during this  last session.  My instructor said, “You are not looking in your mirrors.”  I took issue with this because I always look in my mirrors.  I really had to sit and think on this for a while.  Here is the difference.  In Michigan*, we are taught to use our peripheral vision throughout the driving experience.  I think I am clearly looking at the mirrors but he, my instructor, is watching at certain cue points that I was unaware of.  He explained this to me at the first lesson.  So during this lesson, I made exaggerated gestures to prove that I am looking.  So I respond to his evaluation by saying, “I believe that I did.”  A little discussion ensued and then he said, “I am here to help you pass the driving test.  It won’t do you any good to contest the observations of the examiner during your test.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, he was saying in a very matter of fact way, Check your EGO at the door.

This moment brought me back to my early days as a trainer for my company in Alexandria, VA.  I had many challenges ahead of me.  I was new to the company and introducing a new software with a new business process that would add extra work to everyone in the company who travels.  Add to  that, I would be teaching a group of talented software programmers, people way above my pay grade, AND age. They ate me alive!  I remember what I had to do to survive the onslaught of criticism.  Repeat the facts, do nothing else.  No matter what ,they had to do this thing I was teaching in the way I was delivering it.  Of course over time we would change things but at that moment this is the way it is[was].  When my driving instructor said, this is the way it is, I woke up and remembered that I am acting every bit like those old fuddy-duddys who were resisting the change that was happening in the company.  Yes, the way they use their mirrors,  blinkers, or even changing lanes here in the Netherlands is different and new.  But the only thing I can do is just let go of what I think I know and embrace what is now.  Wish me luck!

*I can only speak to my experiences as a new driver in the late 80’s in the state of Michigan.  Since then many rules have changed in my great state as I am sure in the whole of the United States [ahem, some time has passed].  However, each state is different in how they train drivers.