Parallel Parking Paranoia Isn’t Pretty

I’ve been actively avoiding parallel parking since my driver’s test in 1986 when I grazed* the curb during the parking component. I’ve had PTSD—Parking-Trauma Stress Disorder—ever since.

I’ll drive around the block seven times in an attempt to find a spot wide enough for me to pull straight in. Parallel parking is for Europeans in minis, not suburban moms in mini-vans.

*grazed = slammed into


On the rare occasion when I’ve HAD to parallel park my stress level has been unparalleled.

Last year I drove my friend Sarah to an event downtown. I was fine to get us there. I’m reasonably okay at moving my vehicle forwards and backwards. It’s sideways—specifically sideways into a parking spot—that makes me sweat.

Upon finding the perfect spot right in front of our event, Sarah encouraged me to parallel park into the tiny spot….on a one way street, with tons of cars crammed with impatient drivers, judging me. I made three attempts with the final effort landing us up on the curb. And not just a little bit. I was ON THE SIDEWALK blocking pedestrians.

Sarah looked at me with shock and pity. Then she said rather sternly, “Get out.”

She banished me from behind the wheel and proceeded to guide my van adeptly into the parking spot while I looked on sheepishly from the sidewalk.

We still laugh about it. Well, mostly she laughs. I flush and look at the ground while making a mental note to save up to buy a robot car that parks itself. I will call it KIT. 

Recently I shared my parallel parking shame with my friend Alison. Was she sympathetic? Not really. Instead of commiserating, she told me she kicked butt at parallel parking and that she could teach me in no time.

Did she school me? She did one better. Her PR team organized a “Teach These Poor Saps To Park!” day. They didn’t call it that, but those of us who can’t park ARE poor saps. It’s humiliating and frustrating and expensive. Do you know how many times I’ve opted for a pricey parking lot over an inexpensive street meter because of my p-p-p-p-parallel paranoia?

Watch this humbling and ridiculous example of my parking problem in progress.

Pretty awful. However, according to the CAA driving instructors, you can teach an old dog new tricks. (They didn’t actually call me a sap or a dog by the way. I’m paraphrasing)

Here Are A Few Tips They Taught This Old Dog:

1. It may take more effort, but it’s safer to back into a parking spot.

caa road test

2. When Parallel Parking ensure the space is large enough to accommodate 1 ½ times the length of your vehicle and signal early to help the driver behind understand your intention (in my case, I might want to consider sending up a flare?).

3. Avoid ‘Dry Steering.’ Your vehicle should always be moving slowly when turning the steering wheel to avoid grinding your tire into the pavement. Ahem. Been there, done that.

Is it wise to brush up on your driving skills even if you’ve been driving for decades? 
Yes. Clearly.

Should we sign our teens up for Driver Training?
Well, my mom taught me and you’ve seen how I park so, YES. 

CAA has over 50 years of experience in driver education with 38 approved driving school locations in and around the GTA.

Graduates of the CAA How to Drive Course are eligible to redeem a free 1-year Basic CAA Membership and a reduced auto insurance premium.

Students registered for the CAA How to Drive Course between September 15 to November 30, 2014 at any ADSN location are invited to enter the Tear-up-the-Tuition Contest.

Contest Prizes include:
2 x Grand Prize of CAA How to Drive Course tuition reimbursement
2 x $200 Apple Store® gift cards
3 x choice of $75 CAA Rewards Partner gift card
39 x Cineplex Great Escape Packages

Safe driving (and parking!) everyone. 

P.S. I wonder if I’d be a better parker in a parallel universe? Just a thought. 

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by CAA South Central Ontario, however opinions (and the horrific parking skills) are my own. For more information please visit:

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