Latest column for the News and Tribune:Last month in Madison Indiana, a parallel parking lesson went bad, oh so bad, when the driver accidentally slammed the accelerator and ended up inside a restaurant.
No one was hurt but I’m sure a hood ornament wasn’t the garnish customers expected that evening. Even so, the wait staff remained very professional, asking, “Would you like some freshly grated parmesan cheese on your engine tonight?”
I can sympathize with that driver. It could have been me had I not made it a rule for many years now to never parallel park. Ever. I will drive around for hours to avoid the task and will even pay money to park elsewhere.
I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to parallel park. I aced geometry class. I know what parallel means but every time I try it, my car ends up at an angle not discovered yet by mathematicians.
It’s not really my fault though. My high school driver’s ed teacher refused to teach me. I think it’s because of what he saw when he had me practice driving in reverse. He told me to put my right arm along the top of the seat and my left hand on the steering wheel at “12:00.” Then I was supposed to turn my head to look behind. And that’s when the abnormality stared him right in the face.
Apparently, when I am backing up a car, I stick my tongue out and my mouth opens up in direct proportion to the amount my torso twists. He watched in horror as my mouth opened wider and wider so I could see out the back window.
“Holy smokes!” he yelled, “Can you see out the back window yet? Because I think I just saw what you had for lunch.”
I snapped my mouth shut and he shook his head, “Ok, look, young lady, maybe you will be able to back up one day but there’s no way I am going to try to teach you how to parallel park. I don’t want to get sued if your jaw breaks or your bite your tongue off.”
My husband is the exact opposite of me in this regard. He considers himself the Parallel Parking King. He loves to parallel park. He even carries around a measuring tape so he can see how close his tires are to the curb when done. (You know how men love to measure.) If his tires are not within .5 inches he mutters to himself for days.
I was as jealous of his ability as he was proud. So naturally, since we were in love, we were both deluded enough to think that perhaps he could teach me.
We were wrong. He’s a horrible parallel parking teacher. All he does is repeat, “you have to trust the process,” like some mantra-spouting guru. Then he demonstrates by deftly putting the heel of his hand on the steering wheel at the perfect “12:00” and rotating it around in a sort of “wax on,” “wax off” motion that would impress Mr. Miyagi himself.
Well, I just can’t do it and there’s no way I’m going to clean the kitchen floor more often than once every five years just so I can improve my ability to make those motions automatic.
Still, he tried a few more times over the years to teach me until we both finally gave up and agreed it made more sense to just increase the amount we placed in the “avoid parallel parking” budget item, which by the way is oddly not one of the default choices offered in Quicken software.