My driving’s bad. But my parking is worse. Reversing into any spot is, without doubt, not part of my repertoire of skills. And parallel parking? Let’s not go there.
You used to say you would show me how best to do parallel parks when I was old enough to get behind the wheels; but you never lived to see my driving licence, we know that…
So, here I am, driving into lots — big and roomy ones — and, away from those with cars in front and behind of them.
Now Volkswagen has apparently launched a new technology in their cars to specifically help people like me. At the sheer touch of a button, “your car will practically park itself, cleverly steering into the tightest of spaces” — the German manufacturer claims.
Looking at my old beat-up Corolla, and understandably sick of being driven around, block after block, in my arduous search for the right kind of space, tech-savvy mum nudges me towards this continental newbie.
No, I have decided against it, though. Its price — which I’ve yet to find out, but which I’m sure will make my blood curdle — is one huge consideration, of course, although my resistance lays in something a little more philosophical, a little more principled. Or, so I tell myself.
See, despite my utter apprehension when it comes to reversing and parallel ‘wrestling’, I have not completely given up hope. Whilst I will refrain from either antic when mum is with me in the car — if only to spare her the hair-raising excitement — I have been persevering with trying out both ‘feats’ when I am on my own.
Slowly, line your car up with the one in front, reverse, steer so the bonnet is at 2 o’clock, reverse, hard steer to the right, and so on. And slowly, very slowly, I have been making progress. Some progress.
Sure, the new Volkswagen will mean an immediate end to all this hard work, and pain, and time. Not only will it mean an end to the panic when you know you are holding up traffic as you’re desperately trying to put the car away, it also means an end to misjudgments (we think), and insurance claims, and hassle, and expense.
But, what it also means, to me, anyhow, is an end to discipline, an end to a sense of achievement on overcoming a difficulty, and perhaps most importantly, an end to all opportunities to exercise whatever neural mechanisms that control one’s spatial judgment.
Well, Dad, you’ve always told me the brain is really one mammoth muscle, comprising an intricate labyrinth of countless others, that requires regular exercise, without which it will atrophy and waste decidedly away.
“Stretch it, bend it, forwards then back, backwards then forth, ” I hear you say. “Keep it nimble, and fresh.”
You’ve made deciding easy for me.
And, from my parking (in)ability, you would probably have also guessed that my sense of direction is not better either — yes, you’re right there, too.
Driving to and from work, from church, and from shops, is comfortable enough, I suppose, but try to get me to drive more than 50 km to unfamiliar suburbs, and I’ll start freaking out. Big time.
Or, simply put a road block somewhere, between home and work, and the detours will have me plying routes so circuitous, my colleagues will be leaving work just as I am pulling into the office car park.
Okay, I exaggerate.
The obvious answer has to be a Global Positioning System, or GPS for short, surely — well-meaning friends tell me about an in-car device with a touchscreen that provides turn-by-turn directions, and that speak street names.
But again, I have resisted, this time perhaps less to do with cost, and everything to do with principle.
“It will take you places,” friends, incredulous at my flat dismissal, chastise me. “And it will take you to work on time,” they add. Curtly.
Equally, too, it may take away my chance to learn, my chance to analyse. And my chance to exercise my (flaccid) grey matter — whatever is left of it.
Don’t get me wrong, a GPS is highly useful as a guide, to lead one out of the wilderness when one becomes helplessly lost. But, so is the street directory.
The difference is, one leads you to safety sooner, but none the wiser, while the other will most certainly educate you. I cannot say how much I have gained from being lost; I now traverse those places I had been marooned in the past with the knowledge and confidence I never had.
I have nothing against the tool. Really. A lot of people swear by it. However, I figure if I were to use the GPS wherever I go, slavishly turning left or turning right when the emanating voice tells me to, I shall also turn, slavishly, into an automaton.
Yes, yes, I admit I am anachronistic, the euphemistic laggard, no less. But I somehow just cannot get my head around the need for any man-made contraption (or apps as they are better known now) when we all have an ultra-powerful, ultra-versatile God-made one sitting right here on our shoulders.