Thursday, April 7, 2011


I wish I could defy the stereotype that women are bad drivers, but sadly, I am horrible with cars.

I know some chicks that can change their own oil, but I honestly didn't even know how to pump gas until after I got my permit.

I'm not saying that I cause accidents left and right when I'm on the road, but in no means am I an expert. I am much better now than I used to be about changing lanes, keeping up with the flow of traffic, and coming to a complete stop at the light, but parallel parking is still an excruciating pain.

You would think that my dad would have taught me (him being the master of all things automotive), but he's absolutely opposed to driving with me. Since I got my learner's permit, I've driven in the car with him a grand total of 2 times.

The first time, my family was going back to Pacifica from my aunt's house in Daly City. My dad agreed to let me drive us the 7 minutes home. Now, the freeway entrance from Clarinada onto the 1 is kind of tricky, and my dad was yelling at me to accelerate. He got so freaked out that we were going to crash,  that he grabbed the wheel from me in a panic and forcefully maneuvered me over a few lanes. Needless to say, his confidence in me was insulting. He swore off driving with me ever again, but since nothing really had gone wrong, I believe it was just his anxiety.

The second time, my family was driving to Daly City from Pacifica to my aunt's house.  Though he had forbade me to ever touch the car, again he agreed to let me drive us for 7 minutes. This time, he had mentally prepared a bit more, so the moment he got into the passenger's seat, he reclined his chair slightly and closed his eyes. In a calm voice he verbalized to me, "Emily, you're going to be fine, don't worry about it, you will be great. Just breathe, relax, and enjoy the drive. We are going to be alright, everything is just fine." He never opened his eyes once until we arrived at my aunt's. I think the pep talk was more for him than for me.

Now, given this back history of my dad's incapacity to drive with me, you can guess that my default instructor was my mom. Blind leading the blind I think, because my mother to this day cannot parallel park.

Somehow, I got away with not knowing up until last year. I was only forced to learn because I finally moved to the city (away from the vast parking availability in Pacifica).

Nick never really picked up on my lack of parking skills, because whenever we were together, he was the one driving. Now that I was driving myself everywhere, it was only a matter of time before a crisis brought my weaknesses to light.

Nick was driving with me in the Mission, and the task was to parallel park on Guerrero. I can usually guess-timate the angle within 20 tries if I'm parking on the right side of the street, but in this case, I had to park on the left.

The first sign of trouble was Nick indicating at the spot, and in response, I cringed with an audible "ugghhh". Nick started rushing me to "C'mon, c'mon c'mon start backing up!" but I'm already sweating with nervousness. A parking attendant is in front of us, helping me to maneuver into the spot, but I couldn't hear what he was saying or understand his hand gestures. Between Nick yelling at me, the attendant wildly gesticulating at me, and all the angry cars honking behind me, I totally freaked out. I missed the angle the first time, I missed it the second time, and the third time, I scraped my tires against the curb. Nick was utterly bewildered and fuming mad, "You seriously don't know how to parallel park? You've been driving for 3 years!"

What came next tried both our patience; he gave me an emergency lesson in Parallel Parking 101. He was convicted to cure me of my ignorance, but only in a big safe empty lot of course. I had no idea that the secret was as elementary as turning my wheel at the point of the back wheel of the car next to me. I swear it's the simplest trick, but unless someone dictated it to me, I would be guessing for the rest of my life.

I thank Nick for his valuable wisdom and guidance, without which I would be completely clueless. I can proudly say that I now know how to parallel park, but the prize wasn't without its price.


Christopher Selland said...

Yes, I understand. Parallel parking is pretty difficult, unless you know the little tricks. But yeah, I think if Dad's (or Mom's, if they are the better driver) should not be afraid of driving with their daughters! They should be patient and walk them through the learning process. Then, we will all be good drivers! And that's safer roads, and less unnecessary parallel parking incidents. I wish you luck on the roads!

davwhass said...

I enjoy the way you tell a story as you talk about the topic of parking. It flows quite well going from your Father's frightening driving experience to your boy friend's parallel parking course. On another note, I sometimes freak out when driving with my Mother. Patience is certainly a virtue.