By Bob Blake

In times past, the art of parallel parking was a rite of passage to the coveted driver’s license. Those thin white lines near the curb held the key to the holy grail. The maneuver was Mount Everest and had to be conquered. Even if you gave all the correct arm signals (before electric ones), aced the sign test, backed successfully fifty feet and drove reasonably straight ahead, you got a big fat “F” if you could not parallel park. Period!

My poor mother, a late in life driver, destroyed – not just knocked down – most of the space markers and scared the poor examiner so bad HE drove the car back to the station! I think he told her to come again…but likely at a time he was off duty. She finally passed, but I never remember her even attempting to parallel park.

Such spaces are tricky even for the best drivers. With my luck, the easy diagonal and regular spaces are usually occupied. Invariably, the parallel space I find is hogged by the cars on either end. To make it worse, the motorist behind you has pulled up too close and begins to fume as you struggle in and out, only gaining a few feet on each try. His contorted face is likely spewing a volcano of “bad” words. Despite 50 years of driving and my best efforts, my car invariably ends up crooked and a mile from the curb. Face it…my parallel parking is not pretty!

Several modern cars offer “self parking” features for such contortion feats. It sounds good…but I have my doubts the system works as smooth as the sales brochure claims. Many cities have eliminated the parallel spots all together. Good!

My tactics now are to search a little longer in hopes I find a nice easy “pull through” with two mini- size cars on each side. Good luck! Driving schools teach that the straight in/straight out spot is ideal – no backing! Remember…parking lots are prime locations for both low-speed crashes and pedestrian injuries. Even with rear cameras, backing up is fraught with hazards.

The now-defunct Davis Automobile Company had the best idea for parallel parking. Their 1929 New York Six offered a set of retractable wheels, called the “Parkmobile“. The motorist found the spot, lined up with it and cranked down a set of wheels. The car simply slide sideways, snuggling into the spot. We will never know if the system proved too cumbersome or difficult as the company drown during the Great Depression. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer offered a similar device.

It has been said the only thing worse than parallel parking is… a witness!