Jonathan Richie BW.tif

There is this funny thing that happens outside my house most days around five in the evening. A student driver car pulls up in front of my house and uses my neighbor’s car to practice parallel parking.

What are your thoughts on parallel parking?

It was the only thing we were taught to fear when I took driver’s education. It was only because it had become unpopular to show a week’s worth of car accidents and other terrible things that can happen behind the wheel.

Personally, I try to avoid it like the plague. Like most things in my life, this isn’t because I don’t think I can parallel park – it’s because I don’t want people watching me try to do it, especially if my car won’t fit in the space.

To avoid parallel parking, I tend to go around the block once or twice and look for a space I can pull into without issue.

These student drivers come around and practice this skill that smart cars will probably be able to do for us in five years. I like to shout out the window congratulating the driver on a successful park job.

I remember being in that special driver’s ed car. It had the second steering wheel and brake pedal for the instructor in case of emergency.

One of my friends from high school was confused by the second brake pedal. He was under the impression that the driver of the car was in charge of accelerating and then the instructor was in charge of the brake.

“So, wait. I’m supposed to be in charge of the brake AND the gas,” he said in astonishment. “Well I’m glad I know that now.”

Needless to say, I was very glad he was never driving when I was observing. That’s how it works. You have to get a certain number of hours driving in the car and a certain amount of observing time.

When I took the class, I did nothing but driving at first just so the second half of the course I just had to sit in the back seat and pay attention.

Then after all of that you get to take the test in hopes of getting your license. This is, of course, after you pass the written portion of the test.

How much room do you need to leave for a fire hydrant? When is it safe to turn right on a red light? All that stuff. I had done it all, now was time to get behind the wheel and show the state I deserved my license.

So, one day in 2007 I’m patiently waiting to take my mom’s minivan to the DMV for my test. The lady calls my name. She has a thick clipboard and walks out to the minivan and has me turn it on and test the lights.

But here’s the thing - one of the van’s brake lights is out. I beg the lady to write my mother a ticket, she owns the minivan, and let me take the test.

She doesn’t go for it and I’m furious with my mother.

I got my license a few weeks later. I took the test the day after a blizzard so there was no chance I would have to parallel park with six inches of snow on the side of the road.