Driving Late Bloomer

When I took my driving test at age 19, I was completely shocked that I passed on the first try. At the end of our route, I looked at my evaluator, bracing myself for the worst.

“You passed. Excellent job! I’ll go inside. Park the car and meet me in there.”

Pass

I waited until she was inside the building before I moved the car. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t given a reason to change her mind.

Up until that point, I’d never parked in a parking space before. My past experiences were either curbside or in a driveway. On this day, I was fortunate enough to find a space I could drive straight into (in my head those are still called “Tammy parking spots”). It wasn’t until two years later (the first I drove after getting my license) that I learned how to judge the correct angle for making a car fit between the lines. Even after I was proficient at that skill, there was still a parking skill that alluded me: parallel parking.

All the way up until I was 27, parallel parking spots were ones I drove by. If there was enough room for two cars, I might try it, but it took some doing.

It was thanks to Ms. M that I finally took the time to learn that skill. Shortly after I started to work at SANYO I joined a carpool. We all met at Ms. M’s house, and we parked on the street. There was no way around it, I had to parallel park. Part of my problem was that to this day I have no sense for how long a car is. That kind of spacial relations does not work with my brain. Fortunately, my brain does err on the side of caution, thinking that whatever I’m driving is much larger than what it really is.

Since I wasn’t always the first one to arrive in the morning, there was no guarantee that I would have the luxury of privacy to fit my car into a spot. After one particularly bad experience of taking a million attempts to get close to the curb, I had had enough and I was going to learn this.

That weekend I spent a couple hours practicing in my neighborhood. I found a nice big spot and decided to see how little room I needed to park. I put in the time and the repetitions  and felt more confident. I then found a smaller spot and on the second attempt I was in. After a few more goes, I thought I’d cemented some of that new learning.

The following Monday I parked on the first try. Of course, there was no one there to see it, but I was still all bouncy excited about it. Ms. M and our fellow carpooler did applaud when I was finally able to show off my parking prowess.

While far from an expert, I’m so glad that I put in the time to learn that skill.

How comfortable are you parallel parking? or Is California the only state that doesn’t have that on the behind-the-wheel driving test?

 

8 thoughts on “Driving Late Bloomer”

  1. Parallel parking is a skill. It doesn’t come easy so I’m glad you worked on it a little bit. I’ve had to do that too. I did it every day for over a year at one apartment and I’ll tell you what, it gets you good at it quickly. Now I can do it with ease and rarely need to adjust much.

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    1. It was reassuring to know that parallel parking isn’t something that seems to come naturally to everyone but me.

      My place is on a hill. That adds an extra dimension to parallel parking. I’ve had to put a lot more effort into learning that added challenge since I’ve moved in.

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  2. I don’t think I had to parallel park, but I know I had to do a 3-point turn. I bombed my first driving test. It was in an area that I was unfamiliar with, and I totally blew past a stop sign that was partially obscured by some tree limbs. The instructor screamed, and I zoomed straight through a busy street. At that point, she kept going with the test – but I knew I had failed so I just laughed and messed around.

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    1. We had a three-point turn in our test as well. While it must have been disappointing to not pass your first time, at least you were able to enjoy the experience.

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  3. I don’t remember much about my driver’s test – but I was also 19! I didn’t have much desire to drive as a teenager, to be honest. I don’t know if I had to parallel park for the test or not, but I know I learned how. We definitely had to do the 3-point or “K” turn and I am a champ at those! As for the parallel parking, I think it’s definitely a skill and one that if you don’t use it often, it is much more difficult. I’m pretty good at it now after several years of parking on street as a preference to walking the three blocks uphill from our school’s parking lot. NOT a fun walk – very steep. Now that I’m not doing much driving or parking in the city, I suspect my skills will fade…but we’ll see.

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    1. I wasn’t the oldest person ever to get a driver license! I was too scared of driving. I didn’t like the idea of being in control and the idea that if I made a mistake I could really hurt someone else. That idea terrified me.

      I’m with you – parking on the street sounds much better than that walk!

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