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.”
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?