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All the about Pkchukiss's life in the Singapore Armed Forces

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Short Circuit

(This is a catch-up post to cover the two missing days, Monday and Tuesday (24th and 25th May 2004).)

As the last continuous post mentioned, I was at the driving circuit to take my circuit riding test (a pre-requisite before they would take the risk to unleash me onto the public roads). My course mates were left scratching their heads, and wondering whether I was going bonkers. I was telling them lame jokes the whole time since that blog on Monday. What did the light bulb say to the switch? You turn me on!

Guess it is probably my own way of dealing with the enormous stress. Sweating it out in the sweltering tropical extreme heat inside a helmet, hands covered in gloves, and feet covered by shin guards, boots and knee guards, I was probably going derilous waiting for my turn to start...

Finally, the chief examiner waved at me from the start point. Time to move out. I could feel a lump wedging itself into my throat as I began to signal. Ok... turn on the right signal, check back, signal with the hand, check back again, ease off clutch and gently increase the throttle. It turned out that the testers had lesser interest in me than I had thought previously. They were obviously concentrating at some of the other weaker riders, and eagerly scribbling condemning notes on their notepads.

So, what was the result? I passed, with a total of 4 demerits, for forgetting to check back before tackling a bend, and for checking the wrong blind spot. It still eludes me why I checked the kerb side blind spot instead of the traffic side... Perhaps I was in a trance, or was I more interested in going through the motions? Ah... a potential road hazard in the making.

It so happens that I found out on Tuesday that we would be given fresh new number tags to don for the actual road riding -- to my extreme horror. Images of how I would be attracting stares to me with that big glaring yellow tag, with the number "14" printed proudly in big, bold, black colour made me embarrassed.

"We are going to wear this on the road?" one of my course mate asked incredulously, his eyes showing obvious disdain at the tag.

"Or would you prefer the old number tag?" came the shot-back, refering to the old dilapidated number tags we used for the circuit test.

With no choice, but to offer numbers for the public to punt on in the lottery, we set off. I was actually unaccustomed to travelling at 45 km/hr consistently, having no chance to speed on a straight road. I took to it with glee, before realising that I was supposed to switch lanes before a traffic junction...

Having learnt my lesson, I proceeded with more caution this time, and I applied all the techniques that I have learnt. The highway situation problems class did do some good (for all its hair-tearing experience!), for I saw the hazardous state of the road! For the first time, I saw for myself how dangerous the road actuall is. Motorcycles weave in between stationary lorries, and vans cut sharply into one's lane at 70 km/hr in a 60km/hr road zone without signalling, Mercedes and BMWs dashing across the double white line (in Singapore, vehicles are forbidden to even touch that line), and Protons accelerating across the zebra crossing, forcing pedestrians to watch in bewilderment (in case you were wondering, vehicles must give way to pedestrians at the zebra crossing). I actually rubbed my eyes in amazement! (sidenote: forgetting the fact that I was wearing gloves, my eyes ended up smarting with cotton fibres caught in my eye lashes...)

Then, as I looked into the mirror at my instructor, his lips set in a grin or grim line reminded me of how motorcyclists always get the raw end of the deal. I swore to myself: If I ever were to get a motorcycle, I would get a monster bike, at 1600 cc or above, to ensure my safety. I ended up returning home totally shacked out from all the mental stress...

Things took a turn for a worse today. In theory, changing lanes only involve signalling to the appropriate direction, and after checking the mirror, one would accelerate gradually into the next lane, and the vehicle behind would accomodate by slowing down. What difference! As I signalled, I saw the vehicle accelerate with such abruptness, I lost the courage to pull into the lane. After that vehicle passed, I attempted the lane change again. This time, I opened the throttle more, and only barely managed to get into the lane before the traffic junction. The resulting jamming of the brakes was probably something I do not want to happen very often. I hurt my sensitive part...

While things are turning to be less favourable than I expected, I figure that I would be able to adapt quickly to this extremely realistic world... Hopefully, I do not turn out to be a worse devil (probably hardened by all that hard driving) than the drivers currently on the road now.

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