Parallel Parking

from the California DMV Parent-Teen Training Guide

I drive up the snow-covered street, my eyes on alert for an open spot. I know I could park in the open lot at the top of the hill, but something closer would mean my nose won’t freeze on the walk to work.

There! I see a spot right in front of a small blue Nissan. As I inch closer, another small car comes into view in front of the Nissan. I pull up next to the empty space between the two cars and judge the distance. Yes, my car can fit.

Despite the cold, my hands are sweaty against the steering wheel as I remember the carefully drawn diagram from the driver’s handbook. Pull up parallel to the car in front before backing into the spot.

I shouldn’t be this nervous, but I am. I’ve been telling myself for years that I can’t parallel park. Women are no good at parallel parking, don’t you know? Backing up makes me nervous, and pulling forward into a spot always requires way too many steps.

I was a new driver, my license still a pristine piece of plastic taking residence in my wallet. I had pulled into the parking lot at my dad’s radiator shop. There were so many cars around, the only way out now was to back out, down a driveway of what seemed a mile but was probably much less. I was nervous, but told I could do it just fine.

I looked over my shoulder at the narrow passageway between customer’s cars and slowly began to back out. I was paying too much attention to what was behind me, that I forgot about my side.

The scrapping sound startled me and I slammed on the brakes. I had side-swiped a customer’s truck.

For years after, I would avoid situations requiring me to back up. I parked in the back of lots, claiming I liked adding even a little bit of exercise to my routine. Eventually I got used to backing out of parking spaces (because I had to), but I would still attempt parallel parking by going nose in first. It required a lot of extra space between me and the other cars, and took several tries before I could get close enough to the curb to call it good.

But on this street, an open spot beckons me. Parking in the open lot at the top of the hill is preferable in good weather. I enjoy the walk to work. But today it is 6 degrees, and I want this closer spot.

Both hands on the wheel, I look back and slowly let go of the brake. I stop halfway and look around. I’m not in danger of hitting anything. I back up a little bit more, until I can’t see the Nissan’s front bumper. I stop and look in front of me. The other car is further away than I thought it would be. I put my car into Drive, turn the wheel towards the curb, and slowly pull forward.

My car slides into the spot, even with the curb, as if it were made for this spot.

I put the car into Park and turn off the ignition. I smile. A small giggle releases.

Why should I let the mistakes of the past continue to dictate my present?


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2 comments on “Parallel Parking”

  1. Renee

    Parallel parking is one of those things that seem so daunting. I may have been holding my breath with you.

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