Parallel Parking MAG

By Kim S., Maple Grove, MN

     I thought he was joking, but he actually expected me to parallel park when I'd only had my permit a few weeks. Not only that, I was driving our SUV with manual transmission. I knew that when my mom asked me to drive with the former drivers ed instructor, I was getting myself into something I wouldn't like, but I never expected this.

"Um, Grandpa?" I said, fearfully. "I can hardly get a manual going from first gear. I can guarantee you that I won't be able to parallel park this purple monster."

"I don't care. There's a first time for everything, and today is the day you'll learn to parallel park. This is also the day you'll get a real feel for the clutch and accelerator," he declared.

I would have given anything to get out of the situation. But I couldn't, because he was my grandpa, and you have to be nice to your grandpa even if he's asking you to do the impossible. For the next 20 minutes, I was the student, and he the instructor.

So here I was in the driver's seat with sweat on my palms, and the adventure beginning. I attempted to start moving toward the sliver that some call a parking space. Well, I guess I didn't quite have the feel for the clutch and the accelerator because the poor baby revved up to about 5,000 rpms and then died.

"Grandpa, I think I killed it. Maybe this whole parking thing is a bad idea. How about if I just drive us home?" I asked, hopefully.

"I don't think so, young lady. You need to give her the gas slowly while you let the clutch up. It's a feel thing. When you feel she needs gas, give it to her, and when the clutch is ready to be released, release it," he droned.

Well, that may sound simple, but to me it sounded as though he were speaking a foreign language. I nodded and smiled as if I understood.

I prepared for a second try. I gave her some gas and for a second I thought I had it, but all that happened was that the car jerked forward 10 feet before it died again.

"Well, that was an improvement," I joked. "At least I made a little forward progress."

"I guess so, but if you want to be a good driver, you need to learn how to drive a stick," Grandpa replied, displaying minimal humor.

"Okay, you're right. If I want my opinion to be recognized when I criticize my parents' driving, I better learn to drive smoothly," I admitted.

"Yes, that's very true, and you're never going to learn unless you practice," he declared.

So I gave it another try. This time I actually pulled up to the front car and was able to put her in reverse. I cranked the wheel hard to the right and was attempting to back into the spot when it died again.

"That's it. I'm done. I'm never going to get this stupid thing into that spot," I complained.

"Well, you never will if you keep telling yourself that," he noted. "I'll give you a break, though, and show you how it's done."

I was hoping he would jerk or kill her or something so that I wouldn't feel so inept. Of course, this didn't happen. He drove around the parking lot to give himself a fresh start, pulled up to the front car and explained that you should be about two feet from the other car. If I had gotten out to measure, I guarantee it would have been exactly two feet. He then cranked the wheel to the right and backed in, smooth as glass. He knew the exact moment to stop and turn the other way. Before I knew it, we were perfectly positioned between the two cars. He then proceeded to pull out and sit triumphantly where he had started. I was very impressed. It had taken him 15 seconds to accomplish what I was sure would take me hours to achieve. I sat there replaying what my old grandpa had just done.

"Yeah, that was pretty good, I guess," I mumbled. He laughed. He knew I was impressed, and I knew he was proud.

"You want to take another shot at it?" he asked.

"Not today, but next time you come up from Wisconsin, I'm sure I'll be able to park just as well, if not better, than you just did," I challenged.

He laughed. "I'm sure you will too. Let's call it a day. Do you want to drive us home?"

I hesitated, not certain I could make it home without killing the poor car again. I wasn't sure how many lives it had, probably more than cats, but who knew.

"Sure," I decided.

Once again we did the Chinese fire drill, and once again I was in the driver's seat. I did an okay job driving home, but my feel for the clutch and accelerator was obviously inferior to Grandpa's. We walked in the house and he told everyone that I was "really coming along," which was his kind way of saying that I needed practice.

That night, I was still upset that Grandpa had showed me up. Then I realized that he'd been driving for over 45 years! I had only been driving for a few weeks. This made me feel better. I realized two things that night. First, his competition was unfair. Second, when I'm his age, I will surely be able to parallel park like Grandpa, and then I will take my grandchildren out driving and show them how it's done.

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i love this !


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