The 40-year-old learner: A CBC host finally gets behind the wheel
The irony is I can't actually drive. But I have been learning.
I'm sure you passed your driving test when you were 16, like most Canadians. You could say I'm a late bloomer. I'm about to turn 40. I have a family now and I've been working towards getting my full licence so my wife doesn't always have to be our family chauffeur. But I still have the final part of the test to go: driving on the highway. This part of the test scares me the most.
There is a good reason.
My friends Mike and Sara were both killed in a tragic car accident in November 2010. They were driving a lonely stretch of highway in Quebec when they hit a patch of black ice in their vintage Mercedes.
They had lived in Toronto while Sara finished her PhD, but were about to move back to the U.K. They decided to take a final road trip to Halifax so they could ship their recently purchased silver vintage Mercedes 300 Series to England. They loved that car so much.
They never made it to the coast. The accident happened two days into their trip. Their camera was recovered from the crash. It showed photographs from their last few days together. They looked happy.
The accident sent shock waves through their circles of family and friends. They were so loved and I miss them every day.
I hated the idea of driving after that.
About a month before their accident I was in the Mercedes with Mike, who loved to drive. He told me I should learn to drive. He told me I'd love it — and I promised him I would.
It's time to make good on that promise to Mike.
For me, this really has become a "Now Or Never" situation. I started the process of learning to drive five years ago with a written test and that started a clock ticking. Because of Ontario's graduated licence system, I have a few months left to pass the final test or it will be back to the beginning. I'd have to start over. It could take another half decade! I might as well wait for self-driving cars to become the new normal.
But I don't want to be the Drive host who doesn't drive. So, I've called in the one man who can help, the world's greatest driving instructor: Sameh Abu Hantash. He helped me pass the basic test a few years back. I'm hoping he can get me over my fear of highway driving and help me with my final test.
Originally from Palestine, Sameh emigrated to Canada from Saudi Arabia. He had a university education but struggled to find a job in his field because he lacked "Canadian experience". While Sameh was taking his own Canadian driving test, his instructor sensed Sameh's natural gift for teaching. His instructor suggested Sameh might think about a career teaching people to drive. Luckily for me, that is exactly what he did.
Sameh has now helped thousands of people to get their driving licence.
I knew the second I met him that he was my guy — that I wouldn't be able to learn to drive with anyone else. He is firm and fair. He makes me feel safe. He instills confidence.
And on this journey together, we have become friends.
Over the last month we have been out driving together recording our conversations and lessons, preparing for this moment.
The final test is today. Did I pass?
Many thanks to the families of Mike and Sara for their support and love.
To our friends Billie-Jo and Simon for speaking so openly.
To Adam and the band Saloon for letting their music be the soundtrack to this story.
To the Doc Project Mentorship program for their guidance.
To my parents for being my loving taxi service for so many years.
Thanks to my friend and Instructor Sameh Abu Hantash who has changed my life.
For our beautiful friends Mike and Sara.