Everything about driving is hateful except driving

Learning to drive was pretty good fun, and I had a great teacher, but it was stingingly expensive, and I was constantly stressed by the idea that the slower I learned, the more it was going to cost me to learn.

Taking the driving test is pretty horrific as stress goes. It's probably the greatest single monetary gamble I've ever made. "Hey, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency! I bet £140 [or whatever it was] that I can pass your fancy test." The events surrounding the gamble weren't great either. Long story short, if I failed there and then, I was going to have to learn all over again in an entirely different city.

Buying a car is like travelling into another universe. I have no experience. I don't know what to look for. I have driven exactly two cars in my whole life. You want me to risk four figures on this? Is it made from platinum? I consider myself a smart reader and a quick study, but car insurance is truly mindblowing in its complexity, and paying for it - if you happen to fall into the risky bracket of "young professional male" as I do - is physically painful, like having a tonne of bricks fall on one's bank account. It involves shopping around, laboriously entering personal details into internet forms, and paying extremely close attention to reams of fine print, and yet is impossible to get excited about and so it becomes equivalent to memorising a phone book. It even involves haggling, which is something totally alien to me, being a Briton. Road tax, financially, is another seven or eight bricks besides, even if the procedure is blissfully simple to carry out online.

Books have been written about the agony of paying for petrol in the modern world. On British motorways, you often see signs for nearby service stations. These signs show you what services (toilets, petrol, food, cash) are available at the service station, and also have a small area showing the cost of petrol at the station, in pence. It was a long time ago that these costs climbed above 100p, and not long after that that the figures were removed entirely due to their volatility.

Cleaning a car is tedious at best on the outside and tiresome on the inside. Maintaining oil, water, screen wash and tyre pressure is just a chore. More serious maintenance is seethingly costly and MOTs are just frightening pot luck. The first garage I went to, an official Vauxhall dealer, charged me £54 for the privilege of a Failure, and claimed that the thing's steering rack needed replacing, at a cost of around £480 upwards. My motoring guru friend - having worked in the industry for decades and since retired - said he had never heard of such a thing, particularly on a car which isn't, for example, twenty years old, and advised me to seek a second opinion. The second garage I went to gave the vehicle a single minor brake tweak and then Passed it, thereby saving me upwards of four hundred quid. Was the second garage not rigorous enough? Was the first garage attempting daylight robbery? All I know is, the steering on my car is, and always has been, entirely without detectable fault and at least one mechanic has lied to my face.

You need a wallet for this game.

So driving is about all that's worth it, but in the middle of a busy city you have the continuous stress of looking out for bicycles and pedestrians and idiots opening doors and unexpected traffic lights after roundabouts and other nonsense, and in a city you don't know you've got all that plus trying to find the right road. Volumes and volumes about the stress of driving surely exist. Even on the faster roads, stuck in front of poor sad people who find the national speed limit infuriating, or behind trucks. To say nothing of the horror of actual crashes. Speeding tickets. Parking tickets. Pollution? And you can't even have drink, if you drove.

There is nothing good about driving. It is not pleasurable to drive. It is dear.

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