Parallel Parking: A Family Tradition


Parallel Parking: A Family Tradition

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my teenage daughters. These are the people who are totally dependent on me for food, shelter and clothing who also mock my taste in music and TV shows, and who occasionally reject my cooking and fashion advice. They really are wonderful daughters – loving, smart, considerate and fun – but I like to joke. 

I am the mom and I accept my position as the person they must separate from to find their own identities, but so far, we are still pretty friendly. I’m glad.

My 16 year old was set to have her last two driving lessons in May and take her driving test on June 1. The pandemic put a damper on those plans and many others. Once the California DMVs closed, the driving school called to cancel her lessons. We didn’t hear from the DMV itself, but knew no driving test would be given. 

She didn’t have anywhere to go, so we were disappointed, but not shocked or very much inconvenienced. We were disappointed, meaning my husband and I were disappointed, but my daughter was fine. Like many others of her age group in our area, the driver’s license has been beaten out by the smart phone as a social necessity. 

That reality prompts unsolicited stories about how her parents got their licenses the minute they turned 16 and embraced freedom and responsibility like young adults. These stories prompt unappreciated eye rolls and the dreaded teen stone face that says “I am in the room, but not listening to what you are saying.”

Sometime mid-June, the DMV started automatically rescheduling behind-the-wheel driving tests to those whose tests had been cancelled. They emailed us a new date and time, and we were compelled to rearrange a family getaway so our daughter could take her test. 

Not knowing what the future holds, and fearing the opportunity might not be provided again in the upcoming calendar year, we thought it best to take the date they gave her. Also, we didn’t want to spend 10 hours on hold with the DMV just to be disconnected.

She’s taking her driving test this week. After her last lesson, we quizzed her instructor about what to expect on the test day. Of course, she should be at the DMV 20 minutes early. Our car should also be registered, insured, and arrive with adequate fuel and working headlights, brake lights and signal lights.

The test, he informed us, would possibly be shorter than normal to accommodate increased scheduling demands. And it would not, as usual, include parallel parking or the freeway.

That’s when my husband said “In this family, we learn how to parallel park,” and I nodded with conviction.

I’m sure members of the parking industry understand, but non-parking people who know me might not get, why I think the ability to parallel park is so important. It’s not just about being able to park. It’s a skill that also creates options. If you go somewhere and parallel is the only parking available, not knowing how is going to be a problem.

It seems like there are only a few places in the United States where not being able to parallel park might keep you from getting where you need to go. I think that would be New York and San Francisco, but still.

Being able to parallel park is not just about parking, it’s also about being a responsible driver. Any tool – especially one that weighs two tons and can go 90 miles an hour – should be understood thoroughly. I want my daughter to understand all of her car’s capabilities and many of its mechanical details. I don’t think she needs to know how to repair her car’s engine, but she should know what it’s made up of and have some idea how it works.

My daughter took horseback riding lessons when she was younger. It was one of those things she saw in a movie that looked much more glamorous and exciting than it was in real life. She had to saddle her horse, groom her horse, clean up after her horse, and spend many hours walking and trotting on her horse before she could ride him at top speed. 

And that’s what parallel parking is about, in my opinion. It is something that she should be able to do in her car before she can drive it at top speed. Here’s hoping the DMV stays open for another three days and my girl has the chance to ace her test.

A note at press time: The DMV stayed open; the test administrator showed up in head to toe Personal Protective Equipment, including plastic sheeting for the passenger seat. My daughter took the test with a mask on her face and the windows of the car wide open whipping that plastic sheeting around like a flag in a hurricane. She kept her cool and passed with a near-perfect score. A happy day.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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