As most of you know, my driving experience is limited to a few very brief sessions in dune buggies (and one in a jeep). So yesterday night was essentially the first time I'd driven properly, ever.
It was in a white Mini Cooper, in the dark, and my driving instructor's grasp of English extended only slightly beyond "Left", "Right" and "No!".
The lesson begun with driving in circles around the park outside our apartments (map). Actually, that's a lie. The lesson begun with the instructor showing me how to start the car, how to indicate, asking disbelievingly if I had really never driven before, and then unexpectedly putting the car into drive. I gave the brake pedal what I thought was a friendly nudge, and the driving instructor almost banged his head on the dashboard. Then we put the car back into park and learned about how stopping suddenly will "get us both be kill".
After that things went more smoothly (apart from during starting and stopping of course, that took a bit longer to get smooth). We drove around San Jose practicing turning, signaling, stopping and starting smoothly at intersections, give way rules, lights and other important things. Luckily for me, it appears that being a driving instructor doesn't actually require much more than "Turn Lef here", "Turn Ri here" and "Look you mirror". Whenever he felt I hadn't understood something correctly, or wanted to explain something in more detail, he would tell me to pull over and would explain the concept with drawings. I soon discovered that it was best to remain silent during these explanations as any attempts to assure him that Yes, I did understand, were generally interpreted as arguments or confusion, resulting in more explaining.
Nonetheless, he did manage to get his message through most of the time, and by the end of the lesson I was driving reasonably well. On thing I had particular difficulty with was the fact that the mini was, shall we say, "zippy". The pedals required a more gentle touch than I was easily able to deliver. So every time I started turning a corner (remembering to check mirror, mirror, blindspot beforehand) and suddenly sped up dramatically he would say "Ay! Not soo fas!". I tried to assure him that I was honestly trying to go slowly, but he just said "No! Even though your foot is very heavy you MUS NOT GO SO FAS!".
I'll have to remember that next time.