Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Middle-Aged Woman's 'Parking First'

Laugh if you will, this actually happened a year ago, and I'm still pretty proud. I sent it to the local paper, but they must have had a lot of juicy stuff that week because it never got printed. Any Californian will tell you that the first paragraph alone contains a Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-standard shocker: a middle-aged native Californian who has just gotten her driver's license isn't something you happen to find every day. In truth, a reporter did not interview me, but everything else happened just the way I've written it. Sadly, I still haven't managed to further my goals, but I never stop trying.

Ms Mary Witzl, a middle-aged native Californian and driver’s license holder of some four months, successfully parked her car in the public car park in the middle of Loch Maben’s High Street this morning at 9:48 A.M., just before the arrival of the first bus to Glasgow. Ms Witzl, who was seeing off an old friend from university, was particularly pleased with her efforts, as she managed to park her car between two cars, both of which were correctly parked.

Bystanders were amazed to note that both Ms Witzl and her passenger were able to exit the car through their respective doors, with absolutely no risk of a dent to Ms Witzl’s car or the other two vehicles, even though both doors were opened to their fullest. Several witnesses were present, though sadly none had cameras, so no photographs were taken.

“I’m feeling very pleased and proud,” Ms Witzl said. “We’d been worried because there didn’t seem to be any places free. Someone was right on my tail and all of a sudden I spotted an empty space. Up until today, I’ve had to pass by similar empty spaces and drive around the car park a dozen times until two adjoining spaces became vacant, but we were pressed for time and I decided to go for it. I just checked my mirror one last time, flicked on my left indicator and parked – just like that! And the best part is, I did it all in one go!”

“I’ve been doing a lot of parallel parking recently,” Ms Witzl told reporters, “and my family and quite a few of our neighbours have been concerned because I haven’t made much progress. But after this, I’m not going to give up. In fact, I might even try parallel parking between two cars. Maybe even uphill.”

Neither Ms Witzl’s driving instructor nor her husband could be reached for comment.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Have you managed to repeat the feat or was it a flash in the pan? I'd advise you not to try it in front of construction workers having their lunch.

Christy said...

Uphill!?! My my, are you ever daring!

I parallel park every day in front of my home. The only problem is that I can easily park on the left, but parking on the right side of the street requires 25 or 30 ugly little back-and-forths. Thank goodness we have a one way street or I'd be sunk.

Carole said...

Pretty inconsiderate of the media to gloss over such a story.

Merry Jelinek said...

I think you've graduated to a more rigorous driving environment... come visit me in the winter months and we'll see how you do parallel parking on the city streets, where otherwise reasonable citizens use old kitchen chairs to reserve their hard earned parking spots... on second thought, maybe we should just take the el ;-)

Good job, those silly reporters don't know what the readers really clamor for.

Church Lady said...

Perhaps this needs to be part of a collection!

LOL!! :-)

debra said...

I'm still not too bad at parallel parking, although there are fewer opportunities these days. My daughter (soon to be 16) doesn't have a clue how to do it. Kids now have to perform a maneuverability sequence on their driver's test.

Mary Witzl said...

GB -- I have since repeated this feat half a dozen times, but I've never quite achieved the same results as on that first dizzyingly successful attempt. As for the construction workers, though, I think it's good for them to have their prejudices confirmed occasionally. And whether I like it or not, I end up obliging them.

Christy -- Actually, I was a little giddy when I made that statement; it has remained the Impossible Dream. Parallel parking is tougher on the left here. They say that insanity is repeating the same activity again and again and expecting different results. That's me and parallel parking to a T.

Carole -- I agree, particularly since I had witnesses and everything! If there hadn't been witnesses, they might have just assumed my claim was too far-fetched.

Merry -- In my worst nightmares, I am driving in places like Tokyo, New York or Los Angeles. My driving instructor insisted that London was easier to drive in than our town; apparently in London, you hardly ever move in traffic, so you do very little driving. But if I ever visit Chicago, you can bet I'll leave my car at home.

CL -- Passing my road test here was one of the most shocking things that's ever happened to me. I don't know who was more surprised -- me or my driving instructor. I have a whole collection of driving horror stories. And so does my instructor.

Debra -- Here, too, they have a rigorous maneuvers component. They say that the test is much harder in the U.K. than the U.S. Personally, I hope it's a LOT harder by the time my teenager is ready to take her test.

The Anti-Wife said...

I used to live in Chicago on a small side street. Parking spaces were hard to find and usually very tight, so you had to be bold and just go for it when you found one. To this day I'm an excellent parallel parker.

A Paperback Writer said...

So, next you need to attempt driving a standard transmission (eg "stick shift") in San Francisco.
I do have a friend who didn't learn to drive until she was nearly 25, and my grandmother never did learn, even though she died at age 82 in 1976, when it was thought odd for an adult not to drive (in the States, mind you, for the UK readers).
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that while living in Edinburgh, I did not have to drive for a full year. I walked or took the train everywhere.

Brian said...

I find it easier to parallel park in reverse gear than to drive into the space head on.

In Bondi Junction we used to park in a slightly more than one car width back lane-- and it was necessary to reverse a long way to a T junction before getting out . Whoooee! The garbage cans !


Linda D. (sbk) said...

I've been a driver for over 20 years and I still hate to parallel park. I go out of my way to avoid it. Once every five years is about all I'm willing to risk.

Mary Witzl said...

Anti-wife -- I feel weak in the knees just imagining myself in a similar situation to yours. I have tried -- oh, how I have tried! I am convinced that I have some sort of neurological problem, but the truth is more likely to be that I just need a ton of practice.

APW -- Both of my grandmothers and several of my aunts never learned to drive. One of my aunts decided to learn, but while on her second lesson she was unlucky enough to see a child struck by a car. She proudly told me later that she got out of the car, handed my uncle the keys, and told him that he would be the designated driver for as long as they were married as she could not live if she ever hit a child.

Actually, I am far more comfortable driving a standard transmission than an automatic. Though I can drive both, I like the control a stick shift gives me. And I'm fine on hill starts, though my left arm gets almost as stiff as our hand brake.

Brian -- Oh, I could take out some garbage cans myself when I reverse! I saw back and forth, from first gear to reverse, trying to get close enough to the sidewalk. I get so nervous about the neighborhood animals; I can see if there are no people behind me, but I can't see whether the area is free of cats and dogs.

Linda -- Thank God there are other people with this problem, and how I appreciate them admitting it! I even know a man who has trouble parallel parking. I treasure his honesty.

Ello said...

THat's hysterical! And they didn't post this marvelous feat! Shame on them!

Charlie said...

Excellent reportage, Mary.

I beat the parallel parking thing a few years ago: I don't go anywhere, so I don't have to park where I'm not.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Hooray! Who says girls can't parallel-park? Is it them bloody naysayers again. You show 'em, Mary! Show 'em all!

-eve- said...

Hehehe... I always feel triumphant when I manage to parallel park (one of the first times was in front of the library, where that's the only kind of parking there is, and I was trying unsuccessfully to park - sort of like forward, reverse, forward, reverse, forward... stuck .. reverse again etc...- and people started to gather to watch me.... since then, I guess I subconsciously decided I'd learn to parallel park...

Mary Witzl said...

Ello -- Really, they always go on about slow news days, but when something like this falls into their lap they ignore it. Go figure.

Charlie -- I'm not much for going out myself, and after a couple of vigorous parallel parking sessions with my husband sitting next to me offering superfluous observations about how he'll have to hike to the sidewalk, I'm often tempted to stay at home.

Sam -- Damn right, I'll show them! Every single time I pull up to the curb they practically line up to watch.

Eve -- Do I ever know how you must have felt! You are young, my dear, and your brain is resilient. And it is very possible that you are working with better cerebral (and cerebellar) material than I got handed out. It may just be that I need a lot more practice than most, but I have always suspected that my brain lacks some vital spacial reasoning component.

Anonymous said...

I needed a good laugh today. Thanks!

Danette Haworth said...

What's wrong with your newspaper that they didn't print this breaking story? Tension, drama, stakes--it's all there, and it's even better than K-Fed and Brit or LiLo.

Kim Ayres said...

When you're next in Castle Douglas you can chose to try and park outside the house, or use the car park across the road. Both offer different challenges and rewards.

Eryl Shields said...

When I first passed my test I caused two thousand pounds worth of damage to my huband's company car trying to park. Now I can sometimes do it and sometimes not. I have to park my car right up against a stony wall outside my house and so the passenger side is all striped with white and in some patches there is no paint at all. I guess if I ever need to sell it I'll have to get it repainted.

Kara said...

Huzzah for you! I've lost my parallel parking adeptitude (ya like that word?) now that I no longer have a car. But the scooter parks like a champ...on sidewalks...and porches...etc.

Mary Witzl said...

Riley -- I'm glad I gave you a good laugh, as you've cheered me up on quite a few occasions. In fact, I'm glad I gave somebody other than our neighbors a laugh. My neighbors owe me a bundle; I'll be watching their driving like a hawk for laugh-worthy moments.

Danette -- Really, I have to agree. In my very first line, I hit 'man bites dog' with that bit about a middle-aged NATIVE Californian who had just gotten her driver's license. Didn't they realize? No, probably not. People are always amazed by the ho-hum; they pass by the truly astounding with barely a backward glance.

Kim -- My palms are already starting to sweat at the mere thought of it. I'll try and call ahead to warn you to clear the roads first, whichever option I choose.

Eryl -- I know the street you're talking about, so I know what you are grappling with. I got taken down that very same narrow, winding lane a few times during my driving lessons, and it was a hair raising experience for all concerned. I think you've done pretty well to have kept the same car. Do you know the narrow bridge near Newton Wamphray where you can pass through with about an inch to spare on either side? The husband still gets white knuckles every time I take him through it.

Kara -- Scooters are wonderful. I had one when I was in graduate school and had a marvelous time negotiating all sorts of crazy roads and hills. And parking a scooter is the flip side of driving it in the rain. It's fun to watch all the people circling in their cars, desperate to find a space as you walk, whistling, away from your vehicle.