I can drive. I like driving. I can’t wait for the day I get to own my first car. Yes, I’m 32 and I’ve never owned a car. But I’ve driven all over the world in rental cars and borrowed cars since 1998, and I loved it.
I can’t parallel park. I don’t like parallel parking. I successfully did it to pass my behind-the-wheels driving exam in Belgium, and then managed to never do it again. Who needs parallel parking? I don’t.
But if I ever want an American driver’s license, I’m going to have to be able to do it again. Because they won’t allow me to simply swap my Dutch license in for an American one.
What? Why not? I got my Dutch one by simply handing in my Belgian one... But in America they’re going to make me take the written exam and behind-the-wheels driving exam before they’ll give me a California driver’s license. Damn.
I don’t really need one right now, since my Dutch one is valid till the end of 2016, and I’ve had no problem renting a car with it in America. But what if I ever need an American license? This may be my last time in Europe before that happens. And they have those nice traffic squares in Belgium where you can practice those pesky car maneuvers in peace.
So last week Guido and I drove to Belgium and found the traffic square I used to practice on as a teenager. Guido took on the role of teacher and assistant and together , after a few slight panic attacks and general freak-outs, we got me parallel parked!
As you can see in the picture, the traffic square doesn’t provide real cars to park in between. After a while I had gotten pretty good at parking in between those high steel fence barriers, but doing it on a real street with other cars waiting impatiently behind me still made me extremely nervous. I tried on a few occasions that day in Belgium, but the giggling onlookers or the high volume of traffic just send me into a cold sweat and made me give up.
Today we tried again, in the Netherlands. Guido knew some quiet neighborhoods where I could practice. It was already dark so I have no picture to prove it, but I did it! Again, and again, and again, and a few more times.
People were nervously peeping out of their windows, wondering what the heck was going on. In the Netherlands, you’re not allowed to practice driving on your own, without an official driving school car and instructor, like you can in Belgium and America. I wondered if anyone was going to call the cops, which would have been funny, since I actually have a Dutch license so it was totally okay for me to practice parallel parking, over and over again. Weird, but legal.
No cops came and I took my parallel parking teacher out for some Döner Kebab. He deserved it, after being brave enough to let me practice in his car and being so patient with this parallel-parking-phobic. I just hope I remember how to parallel park when that American exam comes around. I may just freak out all over again.