8. On the street at 48
Increasingly I feared for my job and my safety. The MCA management must have heard about my visit to the Government’s office. I felt an oppression in my spirit that was almost tangible, imagining that every move I made was being watched. To teach the new log book, under severe pressure, was a balancing act between pleasing my clients and following my conscience. Ideas had always come easily, but creativity dried up under severe stress. I longed for a partner, someone that encourages and has the resources to back them. It did not happen, neither with my visual aid, nor with my road safety book.
As instructor I felt squeezed from all sides, the MCA’s boss, the government auditors and students who wanted do conduct logbook training which was the cause of my stress. Like many instructors, who did not like the system, I tried to talk students into just having lessons and taking the option of a (VORT) driving test at the end. More than once I was reprimanded for doing this and ordered that I must conduct log book training as this is MCA policy.
I initiated a petition to oppose the system, stating that MCA instructors will not conduct CBT training any longer from Jan. 1st. 1998, until the stress of the auditing process is addressed. It was meant more of a “scare tactic” than a real threat. Only one instructor signed. (He left not long afterwards, anyway). The rest, I think, was frightened of the repercussions. Before I could officially submit the petition, a traitor in the camp had leaked the document to MCA management. (Later this man would work against me once again). This meant, they knew about the action, which made it superfluous for me to go ahead with it. The issue would come to climax years later in a strange and unexpected way.
In a further attempt to bring some sense into the system I organized a meeting at my house. We decided to suggest at the next ADTA (Instructor Body) meeting to lobby the government to introduce a minimum number of lessons (12) to complete the log book. It would eliminate the pressure of pupils pressuring instructors to have the log book signed off in a short time or prematurely.
At the meeting Instructors first had to sit through and listen to a police officer for an hour, followed by a fireman on fire safety for another ¾ hour. The petition was finally tabled at 10.15 pm that night. The issue was dealt with in less than 5 minutes and rejected by a show of hands. I expected at least a good debate on the issue. One opponent asked the meeting who had instigated the petition? This question speaks volumes in regards to new ways of thinking in a corrupt society: The issues do not matter, only whose idea it is!
I left the organization shortly afterwards, realizing that instructor's real concerns were not listened to, let alone fought for.
As the pressure built up at work I found myself constantly irritable. At the dinner table at night the family was tired of hearing about dad’s failed audit or upset by the manager . I started bursting into tears easily and did not know where to turn to. The family could not understand or help.
In desperation I visited the State Ombudsman hoping for a sympathetic ear and some action. I explained the problem of having to work as instructor and examiner at the same time and the resulting stress and lowering of driver training standards. I just could not wear the friendly instructor’s hat one moment, I explained, and that of a serious driving examiner the next; and swap from one to the other all day long. I pointed out that it has lead to an increase in road crashes amongst young people. He listened and took notes. But nothing eventuated. I didn’t know where else to turn to.
The conflict came to a head when after another failed audit I could not cope any longer. After one girl’s parents insisted I continue log book training I refused. I was called into head office on Wed. 11/2/98. I again stated clearly that I was unable to conduct lessons by the new method.
Had I been dismissed the matter would go to an industrial court, which my employer wanted to avoid. By co-incidence that evening I had an appointment with a Psychologist. I had started seeing him a few months earlier for the stress at work. He advised me not to return to work next day.
Our garden is to Isobel's credit.
A time of uncertainty followed. I thought that somebody would call us warring parties together. I was yearning for a third party to sit down with me and management to discuss my concerns in depth. But I had already entered the mental system. Who listens to someone that has mental problems? I was locked into a box that took years to climb out of.
Psychologists and other medical professionals interviewed me, listened and made their reports. One urged me to go on tablets which I refused vehemently. No effort was made to get me back to work. Because I had been verbally abused and bullied I had no choice but to initiate a Work Injury claim for stress. I eventually won the case, gaining a small sum of money as compensation.
The MCA Driving School closed its operation in Aug. 1998. The official reason was ‘financial considerations’. That would be the end of my involvement with the MCA, I thought. But Adelaide is a small place. And with a name like Dieter you can’t hide very easily. I always considered calling myself Bob, which I should have done the day I stepped off the plane from Germany. Bob reads the same backwards, inside out or upside down. And you can't mispronounce or misspell it. For a while, years later, I would call myself Bob for a very special reason.
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves