Turning : Safe @ 16
Teen Driver


by Steve Mochel on 04/18/10

Another installment from our friend Robin Reif as she learns to drive on the streets of Manhattan with her trusty driving coach Danny.

Robin Reif - our guest blogger

Turning - Robin Reif

I woke today to a shining world.  Spring had come in a blink and outside it was like that scene in movies where the mousey girl lifts her glasses and...(surprise! delight!)...she's suddenly beautiful.  The air was so clear that every homely bush made a statement, stood out as distinct and enchanting.  Yesterday's bald branches were newly edged with gold.  Brownstones soaked in the morning light until their surfaces glowed.  It was the kind of day that makes you want to sing arias at breakfast; tango on the sidewalk; get out in the world and DRIVE.  I mean DRIVE like in a BMW ad - shusshing into swan neck curves on open roads with the top down and Dvorak's string serenade lifting your heart into the ether.

I bounded out to meet Danny, ran to the car, threw open the door, slid into the seat - ready to GO.

"Today we'll work on the fun stuff," he said.  Right on!  I thought. 

"Three-point turns, U-turns and parallel parking."


"Yeah.  And we can go to that dead end at Trump Place to practice."  I thought of those summer nights, running with my friends, trailing peals of laughter and suddenly hearing my mother call me in for dinner.  I dredged up my sinking heart and buckled up.

Rooting for the pedal, I quickly realized I had to make adjustments; Danny is a foot taller than me.  "Don't tell me" I said, trying to recall which lever would move the mirrors.  As I pushed this, twisted that, water sprayed up the windshield, wipers flipped back and forth, door locks popped.  As you can guess, I'm not a gadget person, and if I hadn't been deflated before, I was coming down quickly now.

I drove to Trump Place where I executed what apparently is a new move: the 5-point turn, which Danny patiently had me repeat again til I could get it down to 3.  Backing up threw me.  It was hard to see clearly out the back, so I sort of prayed and reversed.

Then parallel parking.  "What is the first think you have to think about when you parallel park?" Danny asked?  "Not to knock the mirror off the other guy's car when you pull alongside?"  I asked hopefully.  "Well, yes, of course, but you have to pull up parallel.  That's why it's called parallel parking."  "Oh."  My attempts left me at odd orientations to the curb but at least I got to recall some old geometry terms for angles like "obtuse" and "acute".

Afterwards, I thought about how desire and confidence often outstrip capability, which psychologists call "grandiosity" and parents of teens, I suppose, call "normal."  There I was thinking open road!  BMW!  Dvorak! but here I am on a dead end street in a green and white Student Driver sedan, fumbling through a parallel park and reversing on a prayer.

Comments (6)

1. Jim Cavanaugh said on 4/19/10 - 07:48PM
If your driving skills could even approach your writing skills, the world would be a much safer place Robin!
2. Charly Gates said on 4/19/10 - 11:10PM
Wow, does that bring back memories! Parallel parking is like my learning Swedish. One wonderful summer during my school days I lived in Stockholm and took Swedish lessons at the civic center-where they speak nothing but Swedish. My apartment was on a street called Vestmanagatan, and after class one day I tried to impress one of my Swedish girl friends by pronouncing the street name. Over and over I got it wrong. Then suddenly I got it right and her face turned into a big smile, only to fade once again when I tried unsuccessfully over and over again to repeat it. I had managed it once, purely by chance, but had no idea how I had done it, and couldn't repeat it. What chagrin. So it is with parallel parking!
3. Mery Martinez said on 4/20/10 - 12:52PM
Robin, I can't begin to express how proud I am of you taking this driving "bull by the horn"! Jim is right, and I know how you can excel at everything you want to do. Parallel parking is just another successful challenge about to happen. Go for it! Look forward to reading your next blogs.
4. Julie said on 4/20/10 - 03:58PM
you can try what my daughter does since she gave up on trying to parallel park...pay for a garage :-)
5. Amy said on 4/20/10 - 05:31PM
True story - after once trying to parallel parking on a one way street in the middle of Westport, CT - and at least a dozen tries into the manuever - a man came up and ordered me out of the car and he parallel parked it FOR me... and that man was Robert Redford. So ignore Danny ... you just never know!
6. Kara said on 7/22/10 - 08:12PM
Aunt Robin, today I did parallel parking with my dad, gosh it was a nightmare! Trust me we're in the same boat! All though you wrote this months ago I'm sure you're a pro now =)

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