Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Scribbles and Scrambles - Parallel Parking Pat

I don’t parallel park.

That’s not entirely true. I will parallel park if there are two spots available so I can nose in and
straighten out.

I have issues.

You’ve heard of Pavlov’s Dogs. The guy – Pavlov, of course – trained the dogs to salivate by ringing a bell every time he fed them. Soon they salivated at the sound of a bell. After having a huge, slobbering creature dog (pun intended) my heels every time I set foot in my kitchen for seven years, I’m not so impressed. I think training dogs to salivate is kind of crazy, why not train children to do chores at the ding of a bell?

So this Pavlov thing factors into my parallel parking anxiety. When I see a lone parking spot that would require proper technique I break out in a sweat.

My father, Pat, taught me to parallel park.

He wasn’t the first to attempt. Let’s just say I was remedial.

I was chosen to take the actual physical driving test for the state because my Driver’s Education driving grades left a lot to be desired. If my instructor had been a little less spastic with the multiple usages of the passenger safety brakes I’d have done better.

Pat was irritated that I hadn’t mastered parallel parking. My brothers were in the car which always intensified Pat’s frustration level, not to mention mine.

Pat has this endearing quirk – he expects people to understand what he means with the minimum of explanation. When he gets a “duh” response he repeats the identical instructions with a bit more passion.

My brothers wrestled in the back seat as I jockeyed into parallel parking position. Poised, ready to go, I waited.

Pat said, “Turn the wheel.”

It occurred to me as cars whizzed past and a sweat beaded on my upper lip that there are two ways to turn the wheel. “Uh, which way?”

Pat sucked in a deep breath and forced a smile and explained with enough detail that I got step one nailed. Then said, “Turn.”

I looked at him, no doubt, like I assumed the strange word that popped out of his mouth was Swahili. He shot me a concentrated glare and increased volume. “Turn.”

It was a long afternoon.

I can announce proudly that I did learn to perfectly parallel park, once. And I left the Driver’s License Bureau with a card with a horrific picture of someone who was supposed to be me.