Mar 11, 2020

Our Parallel Universe Is About To Lose Its Parallel Parking!

One More Male Milestone Will Soon Be Extinct

By Ed Goldman
A milestone of alleged masculinity is being shattered.

Parallel parking will no longer be a requirement to get a driver’s license “in more than a dozen states,” according to a recent front-page story in The Wall Street Journal.

Now, don’t let that “front page” status fool you into thinking this is actually a dire matter. The WSJ has been running a fairly lighthearted feature piece on its front page every day for years. It’s meant to give us a breather from reading the other front-page stories that day, which can be alternately serious and scary, and sometimes, both.

Like many other misinformed members of my gender, I always thought of my ability to parallel park as a testosterone test—mainly because my dad, who was my role model for manliness, was terrific at it, while my mom couldn’t do it even if under attack by rampaging, self-immolated velociraptors calling her by name. (I do hope you don’t read my column right before bedtime. That image unnerved even me, and I knew how it ended.)

To be fair, my mom didn’t start driving until she was 42 years old. Until then, she’d lived in New York City, where the only reason to have a car was to own something you could never find a place to not know how to parallel-park it.

My dad, on the other hand, drove the front of a hook-and-ladder firetruck in Gotham. That two-driver vehicle (one firefighter in the front, one in the back) can look as long as the city block it’s there to hose down. If my dad could parallel-park that landlocked submarine, you can imagine that in later years, pulling his 1967 Volkswagen Bug into a space designed for a Cadillac Eldorado didn’t pose much of a challenge.

As a public service, here’s the way you parallel park:

“1.Position your car. 2. Check your mirrors. 3. Start backing up. 4.Straighten the steering wheel. 5. Begin turning your steering wheel to the left. 6. Check how close you are. 7. Adjust your position. 8. Don’t forget to pay before you leave. 9. To exit, put the car into reverse. 10. Turn your steering wheel to the left.”

My only caveat would be number 8’s suggestion to “pay before you leave.” In some cities, there are still some parking spaces that are free. Parking isn’t like staying at a hotel, where you’re encouraged to leave a tip for the housekeepers, somewhere visible, before you leave your room. Fine. But no matter how well-meaning you are, setting money down on a curb will not necessarily reach your intended beneficiaries, the street-sweeping crew. 

Anyway, following the above steps and my dad’s guidance, I got a 94 percent score on my first driver’s test when I was 16. It would have been 100 but I neglected to glance at the rear- and side-view mirrors seven times before pulling into traffic, or whatever the test rules were. Also, my dad’s car then was a 1961 Rambler American (he bought the VW the following year). It had recliner seats but also overheated about every 200 yards, thereby quashing whatever a 16-year-old boy might have dreamed was the advantage of driving a car with reclining seats.

The examiner said he’d “never seen a young person parallel park so delicately.” I’m sure he meant to say “manfully” but the radiator’s hissing might have drowned him out.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).