Offen: The no-parking zone
I haven’t mentioned this to anyone before, so please keep it quiet because it’s embarrassing: I can’t park.
I can drive. I can change lanes when I need to. I can, occasionally, drive through the drive-in window at the bank and reach the ATM with my debit card without having to open the door and get out of the car.
I once changed my oil myself (with a little help from the manual and from my wife shouting at me that I was doing it wrong). I know how to call AAA.
So I’m pretty much fluent in car. But I can’t park.
Oh, at the supermarket or the mall I can generally fit between the little white lines, as long as there are little white lines and no cars on either side of me and no supermarket cart rolling in my direction and it’s Tuesday and it’s not raining.
I can also perpendicularly park — that is, if I’m driving a 2004 Subaru Perpendicular, a model they no longer make.
But if I have to parallel park, or even spell parallel, with all those Ls, I have a problem.
I’m not the only one. According to recent telephone surveys, 32 percent of drivers admit they can’t parallel park. (The other 68 percent are, of course, lying or not able to answer the phone because they’re still outside trying to wedge their car between that 1989 Buick and the lumber truck with the lumber sticking out.)
The problem is there are too many steps involved in parallel parking.
First, you have to get so close to the car in front of you that the people trying to get out of the car in front of you can’t. Then you have to apologize to the people and promise to buy them pizza.
Then you have to put the car in reverse and as you’re going backwards, checking the rear view mirror and checking the side view mirror and finishing sending off a text to your friend Rob, you also have to turn the steering wheel sharply so you don’t hit the bumper of the car in front of you while the occupant is right there eating pizza and wondering what you’re doing.
As you go backwards and sideways, you then have to quickly straighten out the car so you can make sure to crunch the car behind you — no one there! — instead of the car in front. Then you have to turn the wheel again, ease slowly into your space and discover you are now 12 feet away from the curb and will have to take a taxi to get there.
So then, naturally, you have to cut the steering wheel sharply to the left again, pull out, straighten, buy pizza.
You then have two choices.
You can slide along the car in front of you again before trying one more time.
Or, like me, you can go looking for white lines.
Neil Offen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.