An early start after an ordinary sleep and I took off in my tiny van for one of Melbourne's least glamourous suburbs in Somerton to spend the day in a truck/classroom. Anxiety was rife. Fail? Succeed? Nowhere to have lunch? A cruel and picky instructor? Trying to be mindful I enjoyed the challenge of steering the metallic hulk around the industrial north. I also made chit chat with the other two blokes training with me. We couldn't have been three more different fellas... a forty-something business owner named Bruce, a slick-but-over-an-hour-late twenty-something named Nada and me, a thirty two year old teacher with the summer ahead of me and some choices to make. Named Dave.
Anyway... as the day rolled by it became apparent that Nada was in a rough state. He didn't speak much and kept his sunglasses down most of the time. During a smoko break I interrupted him scribbling on the back of his driver handbook and asked him where he was from. He told me he was Lebanese. He didn't proffer up too much so I kept on gently digging. Here it is... he came out here four years ago on his own and speaking no English, he arrived late this morning because he came straight from night shift (hence the rough state) for a catering company, he has 'over 500 friends' because he's a barber and made them whilst cutting hair, he learnt his English as a night club bouncer after he tried an English school but lasted only two lessons when the teacher was more interested in learning Turkish from the other students than teaching Nada, when he first arrived he was amazed to see people kissing in the street and wondered why their mother or father weren't present. In Tripoli, he insinuated this would have you beaten or locked up, he's happy here because there is 'too much war there' but 'it's just different here'. Oh... the scribble on the back of his book was his name in Arabic. I asked him if he would write my name in Arabic in my book for me and he carefully and respectfully wrote my name then explained that he wrote it 'professionally' and that most people would write it differently... then quickly scrawled my name in his book. We'd made a little connection.
As the assessments went on it turned out that Nada did the written assessment whilst I was doing my driven assessment. I returned and he was just finishing when I was starting. Soon after, the instructor came in and announced that he'd got 18 wrong from 32 questions. The maximum wrong answers permitted is 6. However, you are allowed to go over the test once and make any corrections you see fit. Nada looked defeated physically and mentally. He's probably experienced worse troubles in his life. I then caught him trying to peak at my page. I turned my page a little so he could see. Then... the instructor left the room in a tizz over some missing document and it was on. Nada asked me what my answer was to the third question... then the fourth... my heart sank a little as it was clear that he couldn't really understand all the questions and the little nuances that the writers put in to catch you out. I started reading out my answers quietly without looking at him and said that we can't end up with the same score. He knew what I meant and we stopped with a few questions to go. The instructor came back and he handed up his page and I handed mine up a minute later. The man lined up his plastic grid with the little holes over Nada's page and in a surprised tone announced 'Just. 5 wrong. Passed. Just.' I gave Nada a wink and the defeat was gone.
Now... you might be thinking that I've actually done Nada and the rest of the road users a 'bad turn' by helping him through the test. You might not. Maybe you can understand. I can only imagine being in his shoes.
I got home and went for a run. I slogged it up the hill and 20 or 30 butterflies were attracted to my shirt and joined me for a minute or two.
It's today. Enjoy it.