Driving instructor calls it a day after 40 years

Bruno Meier has been teaching people to drive cars and ride motorcycles for 40 years. In all that time he has actually taught no fewer than 2,000 pupils and 3,500 motorcyclists and not once did he ever have to cancel a lesson through illness.

As one can imagine, after all that time in the front passenger seat, he has a few amusing anecdotes to relate. For example, he recalls being brought lunch by a Tamil woman after he had told her he did not always have time for a midday meal. Then, one schoolgirl could not work out in which direction to turn the steering wheel; she never actually went on to take the test. He also enjoyed all those lessons he gave motorcyclists, out in all weathers, of course. “I remember landing on the ground a few times, but I was never badly injured. We wear the right protective clothing,” he said, actually giving his last ever motorcyclist basic course at the end of October.

Even as a boy growing up in Walchwil he had enjoyed taking out a local farmer’s Jeep on his land. Then, as soon as he could, at the age of 18, he took his driving test and passed after only two months’ instruction. He then took a job as a petrol pump attendant to be able to buy his first car, a VW Beetle. Naturally, owning a car brought him much independence and freedom, especially living out in a more remote municipality.

Not that the now soon-to-be 65-year-old went straight into driving instruction; he first did an apprenticeship at the Landis+Gyr factory, not becoming an instructor until a few years later, in 1978. He recalls the day he was tested as an instructor himself and was very nervous, not least as the examiner was in the car, too. He said how his leg ached after having kept it in a tense position above the brake pedal for so long.

Then, in 1983 Meier also qualified as motorcyclist instructor, later also meeting the demanding requirements to become an instructor for the Swiss Road Traffic Safety Board, which enabled him to teach drivers of the Swiss Red Cross.

Naturally Meier has seen a few changes, recalling, for example, that, in 1979, a driving lesson cost CHF 40, whereas now it costs CHF 102. In his initial years, it was quite normal, too, for pupils to bring a lot of driving experience with them, their needing only between five and ten hours’ instruction before taking the test. One huge change has been, of course, the increase in traffic, and developments in technology have made things much simpler, and safer, too, such as hill starts.

In addition to driving skills, what other qualifications does an instructor need to bring with him?
“Well, you need a certain flair for teaching, and a lot of patience as well as being able to focus on what you are doing,” he said.

It was five years ago at the age of 60 he toyed with giving up, but somehow carried on, though next year he will be helping out with special courses at the Zug Traffic School, where, incidentally, his son, Sven, is also involved. To make sure he would not be lured into giving lessons again, this time he has sold the car and motorcycle he used for teaching purposes, while admitting that, when it comes to motorcycle season again next spring, it may well set him off again.

In retirement Meier will be continuing to live in Ermensee in the canton of Lucerne with his wife, enjoying being able to spend more time with his grandchild and on his hobbies of travelling, cooking and playing cards. Of course, he will be out and about in cars with friends, but when they take him out, he always prefers to sit at the back, as, in the front passenger seat, he feels he is back at work again.

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