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the occasions lady and

Parallel Parking Skills
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest Osborn

I’ve often thought that parallel parking should be my side gig. After working in Downtown Jonesboro for five years, I’m pretty sure of it.

When I was a teenager, parallel parking was a routine part of the driving test. Like many other young drivers, just the thought of it put me into panic mode. After I passed the driving portion of the exam, I simply avoided parallel parking at all costs.

In addition to preparing me for a career in publishing, I credit Arkansas State University for my parallel parking skills. I lived off campus as a college student, and although my commute to A-State was short, there were railroad tracks between my apartment and campus. I rarely left the apartment early, and I allowed zero time for unexpected delays such as trains. As a result, by the time I arrived on campus, most of the open parking spaces were usually in the parallel parking lane.

Out of necessity, I learned that if you could parallel park on the right side of the road, you could often find a parking spot on campus and possibly avoid being late. If you could parallel park on the left side of the road, your chances were even better. By the time I graduated from college, I could easily parallel park on either side of the street if the other drivers had not taken up more than the allotted space.

Working in an office on Main Street for the past five years has made me appreciate the honing of my parking skills in college even more. Not only do you need experience to be able to parallel park downtown, you also need confidence, courage and patience. With two lanes of traffic speeding down Main Street much of the day, it is easy to be bullied into passing up a parking space. Even with your blinker on and your vehicle in reverse, some drivers are rude and impatient and will refuse to leave enough room for you to back up. Eventually, if you remain calm and collected, they will go around you and you can claim your coveted parking spot.

They often say the worst thing about parallel parking is that there are witnesses, but there are days when I don’t even mind spectators. On a really good day, I am able to parallel park in one fell swoop without making any adjustments. A few years ago, after parallel parking on the left side of Main Street near our office, two stylists at the salon next door came outside after I parked. I had put the car in reverse and parked in one continuous motion. I had entertained myself with my parking skills but had no idea there were witnesses. I laughed when they came outside to compliment me. It was my one-and-only standing ovation for parking.

You see a lot of bad parallel parking attempts on Main Street – some of them are hard to watch. There are drivers who attempt to head nose first into a space instead of backing up; those who leave a good portion of their vehicle hanging outside of the parking lane; and those that occupy more than one space. The traffic, the pressure, the narrow lanes – it can be a daunting task.

I am thankful that I was forced to conquer my fear of parallel parking while in college. It allowed me to sleep a few minutes later before class, and it continues to make my life easier nearly every day. For all of those who never had to pass the parallel parking portion of a driving test, there’s always another option: Park somewhere else.