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Not a Ling-Ling

May 5, 2011

It’s not easy being an Asian female driver. There are heaps of negative stereotypes attached to this double whammy demographic. No spatial sense, blatant disregard for road rules, poor coordination, plain mental…I’ve heard them all. Give me a break. You try being barely able to see over the steering wheel.

Despite this, I reckon I’m a pretty good driver. I’m still alive after having driven in Malaysia for years so I must have the skills. I’m even extra careful here in Australia – I have to be when some people expect a Ling-Ling.

It works. Mostly. I’m faultless behind the wheel until my bugbear rears it’s ugly head – I can’t parallel park.

Here’s the problem:

When I learned to drive in Malaysia, my instructor taught me to park using a simple formula. It was easy to remember and worked every time. Unfortunately, the formula relied heavily on the five bright orange poles marking out the ‘test’ parking spot. Brilliant for passing the driving exam, but about as useful as a chocolate teapot in the real world. It was bad enough that I was hopelessly confused without those trusty orange poles. With the additional threat of accidentally backing into an open drain, it’s no wonder that the thought of attempting a parallel park gave me jelly legs.

So for years, I’ve been avoiding parallel parking spots like the plague. I prefer to pay through the nose for a spot in the carpark, rather than subject myself to the humiliation of backing into a spot again and again to no avail and having to drive away with a great big FAIL sign hanging over my car.

But not anymore. Internet, I’ve just been taught another strategy to this. One that actually works in the real world! Graduates of the orange poles, are you paying attention? Because I want to share this. It goes like this:

Pull up alongside the car in front of the parking spot until your wing mirror is parallel to the other car’s mirror. The close you are to the other car, the better.

Then back up slowly until your wing mirror gets to the middle of the other car (roughly the edge of the front door). Continue to back up slowly but start turning into the parking spot, spinning the wheel quickly until it locks.

Go on backing up (WATCHING OUT FOR OPEN DRAINS ALL THE WHILE!) until the nose of your car hits 45 degrees or 2 o’clock, whichever’s easier for you to work out. This is when you start turning the wheel to the other side (while backing up) and straightening your car into the parking spot.

Magic. That’s what it felt like completing my first independent parallel park today, without having to rely on kind passersby to walk me through every step.

It’s only taken me 6 years.

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