photo by Nina Ahn
I drive right on the speed limit. I never run an amber light. I check the rear-view mirror, look over my shoulder and inspect the side mirror, then repeat the process before I even consider switching lanes. I am the type of cautious driver your mother would spend her superannuation on, paying me to be your personal chauffeur forever. In life, though, we’re taught to present the very best of ourselves, which is why I’m here to offer the out-and-out truth: those who choose to be a passenger in my secondhand Honda Jazz (nicknamed Jane Honda) are taking a risk.
You see, I’m the world’s worst parallel parker.
I’m not telling you this to elicit sympathy. I’m not telling you in the hope you’ll offer me free lessons, and in doing so drag me out of this dire situation. And I’m not telling you to confess it was me who side-swiped your car in 2015, then didn’t leave a note (only the worst kind of person would do such a thing). I’m telling you because it’s cathartic. In a world where we’re conditioned to want to be good at everything, it’s a relief to own up to being seriously crap at something.
I never intended to be terrible at parallel parking – it’s a skill I sucked at almost immediately. My ineptitude was so apparent that right before my driving test, my instructor took me aside and warned, “You can lose points on only one thing in this test. For you, it’s parking – be good at everything else and you’ll pass.” This was the same woman who told me to “give the bitch some petrol” when she wanted me to hit the accelerator. I trusted her implicitly.
In the years since, I have tried to improve this shortcoming of mine. I even went through a phase of sticking miniature circular mirrors to my larger side mirror to (theoretically) double my vision, but I’d still hit the curb. Eventually, I just used the little mirrors to apply lip gloss at traffic lights. I’ve also ordered passengers out of the car and onto the footpath, where they’ve tried to guide me to park my wheels through the wound-down window by shouting, “You’ve got heaps of space!” quickly followed by a frantic, “Stop, stop, STOP!”
When those efforts failed, I resorted to new methods. I’ve lined up my car ready to park, then strategically turned the radio volume down to zero, hoping the silence would manufacture a miracle. It never worked. And let’s not forget that time I was driving alone in the city, and the pressure of the traffic building up behind me got so much that I asked a stranger off the street to park my car for me. I now believe angels exist.
These days, I’m happy to acknowledge my true parallel parking status without remorse or shame. I will happily drive past prime parking spots outside my destination and circle the block for an undisclosed amount of time (if calculated, it would probably rival the time spent watching all six seasons of The Sopranos), until I find an empty angle park or perpendicular spot. Most of the time I don’t even look for a close park – I just drive straight to my ‘are-we-in-the-next-suburb’ regular spots and walk the rest of the way. My step count is unusually high for an inner-city dweller, but my calves have never looked better.
That’s the risk you take when you get in the car with me. I’ll only ever drive you 90 per cent of the way. It’s OK, though. I always keep an extra pair of comfortable walking shoes in my boot.
This ranty rant comes straight from the pages of our special bumper issue (frankie 90). Nab a copy online, track down your closest stockist, or subscribe from $10.50.