Things They Didn’t Teach Me

I’ve been a proud holder of a driver’s license for, oh say, about twenty-five years.

I first learned to drive our automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, 1972 Chevy Blazer on the hard packed dirt roads around Logan, New Mexico. Population 1,002.

Those roads were wide, empty of other cars, and easy to navigate.

Ya wanna park? Sure. Pull up somewhere near the house. That’ll work.

Then I got a more formal education from the ubiquitous McGinnis School of Driving. Don’t know if it is still the same now, but back then, every high school kid in Albuquerque learned to drive from McGinnis.

We got the usual lessons. Hands and 10 and 2. Back up in a straight line. Parallel park between the orange cones.

That parallel parking one…I didn’t need that much in Albuquerque.

I needed it A LOT more once I moved to the Bay Area.

Parallel parking in San Francisco is like a sport. People will actually spectate the event. Comment on your technique. And point and laugh as you make six runs at that freaking small spot that you’ve just spent over an hour searching for.

These are things that Mr. McGinnis didn’t teach.

That “spent an hour looking for a spot” is what got me thinking. Last night, The Good Man and I had an event up in the great City of San Francisco. It was to be held in the part of the City they call the Marina.

Now…we were feeling pretty good about our odds of parking (another thing McGinnis didn’t teach, thinking ahead to where you’ll park) because where we were headed has a pretty ample parking area. It’s a big wide street with a line of parking spaces down the middle (Fillmore, for my SF readers). Plus, it was a Tuesday night.

Lots of spaces and a weeknight? High potential! Score!


Luck was not on our side. An accident on 280 and backed up traffic for a hometown baseball game left us running late as it was. And when we got to the Marina…there wasn’t a spot to be had.

So we did what we had to do. We began the slow circle around and around and around. Trolling for a spot.

McGinnis didn’t teach me that.

Then the consideration of an ever so slightly empty spot at the curb. Can I fit my car in that? What are the odds the people living there will call the cops because my bumper is hanging in their driveway? Am I leaking over into the red zone? What are the odds I’ll get a ticket?

Mr. McGinnis also did not teach me that.

And then, while panic growing and growing as we are now a half hour late for our event, the sheer ecstasy of actually FINALLY finding a spot. A big spot! A good spot! A spot we didn’t even have to fend off other drivers to get into!

Yes! Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!

Oh the relief. The weeping. The joy.

McGinnis School of Driving definitely did *not* teach me that.

I had to learn that all on my own.

I’m pretty lucky these days because The Good Man, a longtime San Francisco dweller by way of a Brooklyn upbringing isn’t a’feared of these sorts of things. He’ll plunge into the wackiest of driving, parking and navigating situations with ease and aplomb. Most of the time, like last night, he’s got the wheel and I don’t have to worry about it.

Because me, I learned to drive on empty dirt roads.

What the hell are all these cars doing around here!?!?!

(Don’t think I haven’t TOTALLY whipped in front of a Trolley Car to get to a good parking spot. Because I have.)

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  • Natalie

    Hahaha!! I learned to drive on Juan Tabo (the "street" I now work on) when it was just a dirt road and the last one before the "foothills". (BTW, I just reread that and I don't actually work "on" the street.. teehee!)I drove a three on the column, 1973, bright yellow, Mercury something or other. Yep; I learned to drive a stick first!

    Then… I moved back home to the bay area and that's when my true learnin' began. I drove a Toyota stick something or other all over the hills of San Franciso, parallel parking, up hill drag on the poor clutch, downhill drag on the poor clutch AND brakes, cable cars; the whole nine yards!

    I'm feelin' ya, sistah!!!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Natalie – oh yes…when I first moved here, I had a five speed Jeep.

    Burned out the clutch in about a year and a half. Learned a LOT about using clutch-handbrake-gas in combo to park on a hill.

    Whew. Those life lessons are taught by a cruel schoolmarm!!!


    PS I remember when Juan Tabo was the end of town too!

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