Rules of the Road
I have a lot of talents. I can learn almost anything, which contributed to my 4.0 GPA in college. I can out eat most men, and I’m sure that I’d place in an ice cream eating contest. I’m a great organizer, meticulous to the point of annoying. My to-do lists are a thing of true beauty. I can tell you from memory the calories in almost anything. And, importantly, I can compare almost any situation to an episode of Felicity or Sex and the City. Not only that, but I can spend a whole weekend in my pajamas watching bad television without even batting an eye. Not bragging here, but I certainly have my unique talents.
Driving, however, is not one them.
Okay, let me say this a little clearer: I’m a terrible driver. There, I said it. It feels better to put it out there. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?
Maybe a little history will help demonstrate just how bad of a driver I am.
Picture it: Sicily, 2002. Okay, not Sicily, Newport News. I’m 17 years old, driving my father’s 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It looks a lot like this.
I’m driving to work, my telemarketing job at MCI where I made a ridiculous amount of money selling what, at that time, was revolutionary: unlimited local and long distance phone service for the ultra-low price of $49.99 (plus applicable taxes and surcharges). Amazing, I know.
I’m singing like it’s my job to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” And you know the amazing part, where she sings the word “now” for like 20 seconds? Well, I was singing it almost better than Celine herself. I threw my head back, ready for the grand finale, and … rear-ended a minivan.
Not just any minivan. A minivan full of children returning from soccer practice. Including one who immediately began complaining that his neck hurt. Awesome. I completely wrecked my dad’s car and I have never seen him so angry.
You would think I learned my lesson there. What lesson? No, not that you should pay attention while driving. The real lesson was that Celine Dion classics and Catherine don’t mix.
Cut to the parking lot of my high school, one year later. I’m in my brand new Pontiac Grand Am (which I still drive to this day). I’m so cool – a senior, with a car, about to head to college in just a few months. I’m jamming to “My Heart Will Go On” and pulling out of my parking space. Then, I run into the most popular guy in school backing out of his parking space at the same time. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage, and I never had to admit this little incident to anyone (until now).
Needless to say, from that point on, Celine Dion has been banned from my car. The minute she comes on, I hastily change the channel. Not tempting fate here. Celine has some kind of voodoo curse on me. Although, I was once tempted to listen to “I Drove All Night” while in park, but decided not to take my chances.
I went several years without an accident, but don’t worry, my poor driving skills aren’t just accident related. I often swerve like I’ve been drinking, “curb check!” is probably the most common phrase you’ll hear me mutter in the car, and my proclivity for getting lost results in many illegal U-turns and trips the wrong way down one-way streets.
I’m not proud.
For the most part, I was able to keep my poor driving skills on the down low until the fall of 2009. And then, I showed the world what I was really made of.
My ex fiancé and I borrowed my mom and step-dad’s brand new truck to help transport items to the cabin at Lake Gaston that we had just bought. My ex and I were taking two vehicles down to the lake, and I was responsible for driving the ridiculously large Dodge Ram 1500.
Why in the world would anyone give me such a responsibility?
I told my ex that I didn’t feel comfortable with such a large vehicle, but he assured me I would be fine. We packed up both vehicles, and were about to head on our way. Then, I realized I forgot to tell him something. I tried calling his cell phone, but it must have been on silent, because he didn’t answer. No worries, I thought, I’ll just drive to the other side of the house where he was loading his Jeep, and tell him.
I turned the corner and felt a big bump. “CURB CHECK!” I thought. And then continued to drive.
This was no curb check people. This was a fire hydrant.
Yes. You heard me right. I ran over a fire hydrant.
The pictures speak for themselves.
Again, I’m not proud. My ex completely freaked out and started yelling at me. “What in (expletive) were you thinking? How could you do this? What’s wrong with you? [INSERT OTHER VERY UNHELPFUL RANTS HERE, ALONG WITH SOME MORE EXPLETIVES.]”
Then, we proceeded to fight about how unhelpful his yelling at me was, considering I was already sobbing, feeling like an idiot and incredibly embarrassed and scared to tell my parents that I had wrecked their brand new truck.
Luckily, my parents understood. They were upset, but as my step-father said, “Mistakes happen.” I paid their deductible, and now we laugh about it. Except last week when the truck started to make funny noises and the only thing we can think is that it must be leftover from the accident. But, I digress. Mistakes happen.
For years, I thought my poor driving ability was a quirk of mine. Endearing, even. Since that last accident, I’ve been trying to be a better driver. But there has been one key thing that’s been keeping me from being a good driver:
I can’t parallel park.
Like I mentioned in my Dating Resume, and even on my very first post on this blog, I can’t parallel park. And I’m not just saying I’m no good at parallel parking. I mean I literally can’t parallel park.
For some reason, parallel parking wasn’t part of my Driver’s Ed, and it certainly wasn’t part of the test to get my driver’s license. I live in Chester, people. They were more concerned that I knew how to get on the highway to go to the big city, never mind that I can’t park when I actually get there.
My inability to parallel park has been a key factor in my life. It meant that in college, I had to shell out money for a spot in the parking deck. One year, when I accidentally slept in late the day parking spots went on sale, I had to buy a spot in a parking deck a gazillion miles away and walk 15 minutes to class every day. Through hobos, crossing many dangerous streets, uphill both ways, through the snow with no shoes. All because I can’t parallel park.
It didn’t stop with college. The fact that I can’t parallel park affects my restaurant choices and whether I go to visit my friends in different parts of Richmond. Hell, I live in Chester primarily because I can’t parallel park. Living in Richmond wouldn’t seem so impossible for me if the parking didn’t stress me out so much!
I recently realized that I’d had enough. This disability was holding me back on my quest to be Simply Solo. Something had to give.
A colleague at my work, Brian, graciously offered to teach me how to parallel park in the office parking lot. We put the training session on the calendar. I had the appropriate amount of negative thoughts that I could never learn. I told him that he better pack his patience.
The day of the big lesson came. I was so nervous. How embarrassing would it be if I ran into Brian’s car in the parking lot of my work? Surely, I’d have to find a new job. I couldn’t live through that kind of embarrassment.
And then a miracle happened: He taught me to parallel park. Not only that, he taught me how to back into a parking space. (What? I didn’t mention I couldn’t do that either? Whoops!) It was way easier than I had ever thought.
Okay, I’m not great. I’ve got a lot of practice to do.
So if you see some random blonde pulling into spaces, jumping out of her car excitedly to see how well she did, and then getting back into her car only to find another space to park in, don’t be alarmed. She’s probably just trying to improve her parallel parking skills.
Now, if you hear Celine Dion playing on the radio, run for your dear life.
Here are some more fuzzy shots (taken with my Blackberry) of me practicing on my own time. Next trip downtown, I’m driving people!