So, I really hate parallel parking.
I hate it in the same way that I hate pool. Because pool and parallel parking are all about “math” and “spacial reasoning” and other literal, non-abstract, clear-cut ways of doing things that I DO NOT excel at. I don’t like things I can’t bullshit my way out of. (I do, however, like ending my sentences in prepositions.)
When I was 16, I failed the driving test the first time I took it because I was driving a big, manual SUV (my tiny automatic car broke down en route to the test), and during the 3-point turn (that I was absolutely professional at in my tiny automatic car), I got insanely nervous and REVVVVED on the clutch and when I released and put my foot on the gas, we roared back OVER the curb. The coach made me stop the car, and HE drove us back to the office from the test track. I was mortified. When I went back the following week, I was in my tiny automatic car, and sat with the same coach. I sailed through test, but then… then came parallel parking. Something that, no matter how much I practiced, I still only had a 49% success rate. “You have 3 minutes to park, and make sure you’re no more than 6 inches away from the curb.”
I pulled up next to the dummy car, turned my wheel until it stopped, backed in until I thought I was close enough to the other dummy car, turn the wheel all the way the opposite direction, back up some more, straighten the wheel, go forward, back up, straighten the wheels, done. I was sweaty and scared, but I did it. He opens his door, looks out, and looks back at me. “I said 6 inches, not 6 feet.” I looked out and no shit, I was about 3 feet away from the curb. FUCK.
The next (excruciatingly, never ending) 5 minutes were a flustered, sweaty, panicked jumble of me pointlessly driving forward, and backing up, driving forward, and backing up, and not getting any closer to the curb. I was about to hyperventilate when he finally took pity on me. “Take a deep breath, and start over. It’s ok.” I started over, and somehow made it about 7 inches from the curb. And then, he said the magic words. “Alright, I’m going to pass you – but only if you promise to go home today and every day, practice parallel parking.” I laughed and said, “I promise you I will pay to park 10 miles away if it means I won’t have to parallel park.”
And by god, did I keep that promise. I avoided parallel parking for 99% of my adult life. I avoided it up until 2013 when Joel and I stayed in NYC, and it was only when I was trawling the streets in Brooklyn looking for our air b-n-b that I casually realised there was only street parking. FUCK. I got a lucky, drive in and park spot the first time, my car got towed the second time because I parked in front of a fire hydrant (whoops), and the third time, I aimlessly pulled in and out for like 10 mins while trying to park until the guy sitting in the car behind me FINALLY backed up so I could just pull in and straighten out.
So yeah, I suck at parallel parking when I have someone to guide me, and I REALLY suck at parallel parking when I’m doing it on my own. And the first thought I had when we bought Rob’s car was, Oh shit, we don’t have a car park. I will have to parallel park. And therein lies my only issue with driving. I’m fine with being on the roads, back roads, and hi-ways, in parking lots and parking garages, but finding parallel parking in the very few areas that are 24 hours when I get home makes me want to never drive again. I’ve been really lucky the few times I’ve gone out, because one of three super dependable, easy to parallel park spots have always been available. I knew there would come a day when I came home and there wouldn’t be any spots. But in true Audrey fashion, I was all “I’ll deal with that when it happens.”
And it finally happened yesterday. My worst nightmare. First street: full. Second street: full. Third street: very full. FUCK. I drove through the nearest street, where there were tiny spaces available, but they were all 2 hour parking. Same with the next street. I pulled into a no parking spot and had a very minor freak out, and did the only thing I could think of: frantically text Joel.
I drove around the same streets for about 20 minutes, silently freaking out the entire time, occasionally stopping in a no parking spot to fruitlessly Google “24 hour parking Chippendale”, seeing nothing but 1 or 2 hour spots, thinking I might have to park in the next freaking suburb, begging for someone to pull out of one of my coveted spots. Finally, a wild, 24 hour spot appeared. It was a smaller space than I was used to, and it was on a busier street than I’m used to. FUCK. After two re-starts and some clumsy maneuvering, I did it. I was in. Somehow.
I spent the next 15 mins or so trying to straighten out and get closer to the curb. But the same black out terror from when I was 16 and shaking at my driver’s license test came over me, and I spent 10 minutes edging forward and edging backward (guys, this is my signature move), terrified of hitting either car near me, but maybe moving incrementally closer to the curb. Finally, both tires (and more importantly, my recently replaced driver’s side mirror), were within the line, and I decided to go with “safe + good enough.”
I walked away, feeling victorious. If not a little bit shaken. They say understanding is reached only by confrontation – so I hope the next time I have to parallel park, I’m not as paralysed*.
But I also feel like I need to book a 3 hour driving lesson where all I do is parallel park.
As I walked the 10 minutes back to my apartment (hooray, city living), I cut through a street in the back of my neighborhood and saw —