My current car is my third. My first was a hand-me-down relic of the automotive industry that had spent so long in a stationary position that it had accrued a small ecosystem in the form of lichen, spiders and moths. It was the vehicular equivalent of a sloth that slowly becomes home to algae. It was a beautiful behemoth of a thing that rattled and groaned and struggled up inclinations over 10 degrees. However affection and crossed fingers did not create the necessary combustive process to keep it going and eventually I had to trade up and across and I downsized to a cube.A half-car, essentially it stopped at about the point where most cars back seats started.
It too was a faithful fuelled companion and had the added of bonus in that it didn’t smell like the set of Mad Max every time I turned the ignition over. Unfortunately my second car didn’t last very long. In fact a family of improperly spawned and maintained sea-monkeys outlived my little half-car. My new automotive relationship lasted a week before I attempted to inhabit the exact same space at the exact time as another car coming the other way. Apparently you can’t do that. So my half-car became a two-thirds-car. From the front seat backwards the car was pristine. However the third with all of the important car related bits in it was spread out across a stretch of intersection near a railway line.
Which completes the journey to my latest four-wheeled accomplice. It’s original master lived across the road and took pity on the wreck of Car no.2 that sat on my family’s front lawn for a lot longer than it should have. Perhaps it was a deliberate manipulation of emotions, a strategic placement of a busted dream so that it was in full view of the neighbours and therefore would cause them to come to my aid. I’m not that clever. I drove my car into another car remember? (Strangely enough, I still have that dudes number in my phone…because that’s a great number to drunk dial: “Heeeeyyyy! I ruined your brother’s car and your girlfriend hates my guts…”)
Anyways. This is basically a complicated way of saying that I am currently writing this on the metal block pretending to be a balcony that juts out from my apartment, and in doing so I have an excellent view of the world below…and the people trying desperately to find a park within it. The reason I brought up my own experiences with cars is because I wanted to talk about my parking anxiety. It’s the sort of shortness-of-breath-clammy-palms-shaking-knees-oh-god-oh-god mania that overcomes even the best of us in certain situations. For some people it’s when they have to order a particularly complicated sandwich at a cafe. For others it’s the moment of fear just before you commit to greeting someone with a hug, a kiss on the cheek or a combination of the two without knowing if they are prepared for such a greeting.
Parking anxiety is compounded by the pressure of other vehicles sitting right on your tail, your passengers giving you disparaging looks and the fact that if you go just a little too far to the right you will leave a big dirty smear down the length of an Audi whose front bumper costs more than you’re whole car. However my parking anxiety transcends beyond just my own parking frustrations and extends out to feeling that sense of unease and sweatiness when watching total strangers park.
Like right now.
I realised I was holding my breath as I watched a green Commodore slowly revolve precariously close to its neighbour, it’s driver stuttering backwards and forwards as they tried to navigate the tight turn from the road to the safety of the white outline. However in the same instant as being gripped by vicarious panic, I also felt a strange sensation pass over me. From this vantage point I realised that there was quite a bit of space. An abundance of space between what the driver saw as the edge and what actually constituted the edge. And as I expanded my gaze across the other parking spaces I saw that many of the other drivers had misjudged the space they were allowed and had hugged one line or the other.
It was a profound moment for me. A sense of freedom and peace. I no longer felt my sphincter tighten at the thought of nudging my car into the gap. It was like turning on the light and realising that the ominous shadow in the corner that bore an uncanny resemblance to Slender Man was really just a lamp with a jacket thrown across it. It was kind of like being cured.
I say kind of because while from my lofty height above the cars and the commuters rushing around everything looks fine, as soon as you hit ground level the miles of free asphalt suddenly transforms into a cat’s arse in a vice. The horrible feeling came back and I knew that if I was in my car trying to flick my car into that space, my bird’s-eye view would count for jack, instead it would be replaced with the flat expanse of terror presented from below. It’s like turning the light back off again and realising that you don’t own a jacket…or a lamp.
Panic is all in the perspective.
Anyway this whole thing was really just an excuse to sit in the sun, I had planned on writing a short story about a fat man…but that will have to come with the next ray of sunshine predicted for later in the week (what am I made of motivation and creativity???)
Good luck with your driving.
This post is in loving memory of my green Toyota Lexcen: You served me well old girl.
And my white Mazda: You were taken from us much too early…