So, I had my share of throwing around buses yesterday. It was a group of twelve people with ten vehicles, mostly buses like mine, but other modified cars too. I recognized some drivers from the first aid course weeks ago, and was promptly put in the old geezer group, ach ja …
We first watched an instructional film showing scenes of daily madness from a driver’s seat. George, the instructor in this part of the course, has seen it definitely too often. He stopped it at all the right points to ask questions, point out possibly dangerous situations, and spun his own yarn. At one point we watched a juggernaut on the right lane as it came over the middle line to turn into a small street. George stopped the film and told us happily “If you’d have tried to overtake here, your car would now slam over the curb, hit that lamppost & that would smash this pedestrian” – pointing to a small figure in the background I couldn’t barely see. Well I sat in the last row.
Then we drove to the “testing ground”, a large parking lot in another quarter of the city, where other instructors took over. They had strewn these orange cones all over the place, the official word for these things is “Leitkegel” (Ger., Eng.), old geezers like me also know them as “Lübecker Hütchen”, yes they were invented in Lübeck and look like silly hats.
My fellow old geezers and me started with the run & hit exercise. First they wanted us to brake the car as hard as possible (“You have ABS, show us that it works!”), do an emergency stop. Before we should guess the distance we’d need to bring the car to a full stop from a certain point at a given speed and mark this point with a Hütchen. I was glad to learn that I had the distance marked correctly, stopped without killing my cone, just shoving it. My colleagues thought they’d need more road to stop, so their cones were far out and not in danger.
Second exercise was to avoid an obstacle : Run-up, press the clutch, swerve around the plastic thingy : “You have ESP, show us that it works!” I thought that the distance between the last cone of my entry-zone and the obstacle-thingy was pretty narrow, two meters perhaps, but to my astonishment this worked, no bumps in my car, no cones killed.
Third was to combine the previous two : Thunder in, press clutch, break, steer, stop. And yes, I thundered in. And while I sat in my wobbling bus, thanking the inventor of safety belts and the squealing of tyres still resonating in my head, and asked myself what the heck had happened, one of the instructors moved over to my window and while watching me through his squinted eyes he said that he would need to remove me from this training course if I would not change my racing habits. This woke me up from post-swerving-coma. This time I had not used my own speedo, respectively the one we are officially told to use, the digital display of the tachographs (better visible & correctly calibrated), but I had stared the large table the instructors had installed right before the zone where the actual test was performed and the cars start to fly. I swear to GOd that this table showed exactly 50km/h when I came in, the speed we had to reach. It felt boldly like more than 60 when I struggled with my bus, needed much more space. The car behaved perfectly well, did what it was supposed to do, just with significantly more force than expected.
I guess I used some inappropriate words to express my thoughts (I cited Duke Nukem), the man did not come near my vehicle again, what I appreciated. Later I saw another trainer watch our vehicles from the starting point, watch the table, open it and turn some knobs, have no clue what he did there. He did this before the groups changed place.
Because meanwhile the old geezers moved on to the second part, maneuvering in tight spaces. It was fun and I like to do this. Since the arrival of power assisted steering one has not to wrestle with the volant any more, large regular mirrors and small additional ones nearly minimize the blind spot (it is still there, but significant smaller than years ago when I learned to drive a lorry), and – last but best – there are working rear view cameras that allow one to use every inch of space. The parcours were nicely thought out, from easy to demanding, slalom backwards was interesting.
All in all it was a useful training, meant to push the confidence in the car and in one’s own abilities. My reflexes still work, good to know, hope I do not need them.
This Sunday Music is Lulu Swing performed by the great Hänsche WEISS / Hänsche Weiss Quintett (Ger.), from the 1977 lp Fünf Jahre Musik deutscher Zigeuner, with WEISS and Lulu REINHARDT (Ger.) as solo guitarists – hope you like it.
Have a peaceful week, and avoid swerving buses, they really need a lot of space.