#936 Perfect parallel-parking on the first try

Have you ever been driving down a busy, two-lane road with cars parallel-parked on both sides and a long line of people driving in front of you and behind you? I have, and I tell you: it’s a terrible feeling.

Most of the time I’d rather drive right on by a plum parking spot rather than face The Audience, the group of cars driving behind me and strangers walking beside me that stop to briefly witness the awkward reality show known as Anyone Else’s Parallel Parking Attempt.

Yeah, my stomach gets knotted up and I lose confidence in my abilities to pull it off. I know the people behind me aren’t just watching me, either. No, they’re judging me too — since the quality of my parking has a direct affect on the length of their drive. If I suck, they wait, and they know it. They stare at me coldly, locking glances tightly with mine through the rear windshield, just daring me to pull it off.

Then finally I give it a go, in one of two ways:

  1. The Driving School Method. This is where you really don’t pay much attention to your car or the space you have to fit into. You just follow the book — pull up beside the car in front of the spot, put it in reverse and spin the wheel until you’re forty-five degrees out into the intersection, and then keep backing up while quickly spinning the wheel the other way really fast. If all went well, you should end up right in the spot perfectly. Then again, this method is equivalent to building an IKEA bookshelf using the instructions only, without pausing to evaluate your work throughout the process. You might just finish and then stare up at the crooked, unbalanced pile of plywood you just nailed together, and wonder what went wrong.
  2. The Advanced Spatial Skills Method. There’s no rhyme or reason to this one. You don’t do anything, except size up the space, and then fiddle and turn your wheel until you fit in. You’re just really good at aiming a big piece of metal into a small square hole, really. You’ll go in any which way you can and then it’s presto, finished, simple as that. People who can do this amaze me, because I cannot do this.

No, for me it’s the Book Method all the way. I have no choice. Of course, I obviously do something wrong, since I usually end up a good three feet away from the curb. Then I’m forced to try frantically to “drive in” to the spot with an awkward twelve-point turn, failing to properly understand the impossibility of this manouver each time. Eventually I just give up and speed off, fleeing the scene and distancing myself from this horrible embarrassment as quickly as possible.

I guess that’s what makes it so great when you really do nail that parallel-parking job on the first try. When you pop into the spot perfectly and tightly — like a battery into a remote control — you get a huge high, a smile reveals itself on your face, and there’s an extra spring in your step. Yeah, there’s really nothing quite like it. The other cars behind you zoom ahead, happy to keep moving, but a little upset you got the spot and they didn’t. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an old guy will stumble out of the nearby restaurant patio he was watching you from, extend his hand, and say “Sonny, now that was impressive.”


Get in there...

Photos from: here and here

40 thoughts on “#936 Perfect parallel-parking on the first try

  1. I agree, it is awesome to smoothly just back right in perfectly. I especially love it when you’re driving a really small car, so you can fit into the tiny spaces that other cars / vans can’t.

  2. I love it when it goes well in one try and yes, I never even try if there are people watching. This really hits home and is definitely on my list too!

    And in my case, I’m not just worried about embarrassing myself, but I don’t want to confirm the view a lot of men have on female driver. Because you know when one girl can’t parallel park it means women can’t drive >.<

    1. It’s embarrassing when people are watching – but when it works – it’s just awesome!

      I was following a friend who’s a policeman into town once with a car full of guests. There were two just spots on a busy road where we needed to park – he was in front and took the easy one, casually waving me towards a space about 8 inches longer than my car.

      So I just went for it, and happened (mostly by luck) to hit that perfect maneuver that in one fluid movement put me 4-inches from the curb in a space that looked close to impossible. Never parked so well before or since, but just that once I managed to go from victim to victor in one perfect spin of the wheel. Awesome.

  3. This post had me in tears laughing because I am all too familiar … I have whizzed past the perfectly open spot for fear of not sticking the landing on a parallel parking job. But the feeling of the one-try-slide-in is unbeatable. And hopefully the person in the car with me believes that I am always such a smooth driver. ;-)

  4. Drunk or sober I can parrell park a zepellin between two go carts. That’s how insane my fucking parking abilities have become. I could parrallel park a Sherman tank in a space no bigger than a Vespa and I could do it while blindfolded. Parrallel parking on the first try kicks ass.

    – Mike James

  5. This one is most definitely awesome, especially if you’re in a big, unwieldy vehicle. The first time I tried method 2 and succeeded, I was so excited I wanted to do a celebratory dance with my friends. Unfortunately, I was alone and had to run 3 blocks to make my job interview in time, so I simply celebrated after I got home afterwards. =)

  6. I had a horrible experience a few weeks ago. Ended up driving on to the curb , then hitting the car in front of me .Worst of all, my friend was with me ……I thought about it the whole day .

  7. I find it painful watching an amateur try and parallel park, and fail miserably. Maybe they should take the bus.

  8. There is actually another method to this!

    1. Pull up next to the front car
    2. Cut your wheel, start to back into the space
    3. Watch your passenger side mirror — when you can see the front right tire of the car behind you (ie: the wheel next to the curb), straighten out the wheel, keep backing up
    4. Once the nose of your car has cleared the bumper of the front car (ie: you have room to pull up a little), take your car out of reverse and back into drive, and then pull forward a little, to finish centering up.

    Ta da!

  9. That color Jeep was only made in one year. My family had that same Jeep and it was always a pleasure to see another one of the same color.

  10. Oddly enough, the first time I ever parallel parked was the only time I did it perfectly. After that, I either need to try multiple times, pick a very large spot, or just move on.

  11. Ha Ha been driven for 22 years and still haven’t done it on the first try….but I bet it WOULD be awesome!

  12. 1. spin the wheel all the way to the right, back up your car till the the right front light of the car behind you comes into your driver side mirror.
    2. spin the wheel to the center, back up till the lower right corner of the windshield is lined up with the left corner of the car in front of you.
    3. spin the wheel all the way to the left, back up till the car is parallel to the sidewalk.
    4. spin the wheel back to the center and move the car to center up.
    5. congratulate yourself on a job well done!

  13. In my experience, Europeans tend to be better at the parallel parking thing, simply because we have to do it more frequently.

    When I lived in the States, I once drove around in a car with a broken reverse gear for a month without being inconvenienced big time, because not only did I hardly ever have to parallel park – the average parking lot (be it near my dorm, the gym, the mall…) was usually spacy enough to be able to just drive into and out of the spot in forward gear….

    Other than that – practice makes perfect…. :)

  14. Thankfully, I never have to parallel park. Even traveling into/within the DFW metroplex (almost) every day.

    I didn’t have to take a driving test when I got my license, not even a written test (this law has since changed), and even when I did eventually have to take a test, after a cop mistakenly questioned my competence to drive, she passed me on it even though I was nowhere close, and my father was looking along from the inside, questioning whether I was going to pass because that was the first thing they had me do, and he could see it.

    I’m just very lucky in that I very, very rarely have to parallel park. In the 6 years that I’ve been driving, I’ve done it once. ONCE. Really, I didn’t even have to do it that time, but I didn’t feel like walking that far, so I decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

    I doubt I’ll ever master it, but I’m ok with that. I don’t need it anyway.

  15. May resemble it’s finally about to get warm again … It would have been a wild winter 2010 all over the county. Is seems like spring time won’t come soon enough! Looking forward to our summer months ahead .

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