Well, yesterday I either did my good deed for the week or my obnoxious deed for the week. I haven't yet decided which.
I was taking an afternoon walk, enjoying the crisp autumn weather, and my meandering carried me past the local high school. There is a large, unused parking lot there that is popular with the 16-year olds for practicing driving skills in hopes of winning that magic ticket to adolescent freedom - the driver's license.
True to form, yesterday there was a young girl diligently perfecting her parallel parking while her father dispensed guidance and encouragement from the passenger seat. It was a touching demonstration of fatherly love and patience. Time after time she circled around, approached the parking space, and tried with all her might to neatly maneuver into the space. But being a neophyte, she hadn't yet mastered the technique and inevitably ended up a couple of feet from the curb. But that didn't deter Dad, who would give her a few coaching points and then gently spur her on to try again. What a lovely slice of Americana. Who would want to disturb it? Well, me, of course...
You see, the problem was that the technique she was practicing with such perseverance was, shall we say, somewhat lacking in the most basic of fundamentals. She was parking on the left side of the road, facing into traffic, with the curb next to the driver's door. Sure, that makes the task a good bit easier, but there is the little problem that parking against the flow of traffic is illegal in this state.
As I walked up the sidewalk toward the two I debated with myself whether or not I should butt in where my advice was so clearly needed yet also so clearly not wanted. I finally gave in to my meddling side and convinced myself that giving the young woman a fighting chance at passing her driver's examination more than offset the harm of embarrassing the father.
I strode into the parking lot, waved them down, and approached the father on the passenger side. He rolled down the window and I asked if, in fact, they were practicing parallel parking.
"Yes, we are" he replied.
Having confirmed my suspicions, I then informed them that "Parking on the left side of the road facing into traffic is illegal. You must park on the right side of the road with the curb against the passenger side of the car."
"But she is just practicing. There's no harm in that, is there?"
Apparently I must have been looking rather stern and official, and he thought I was getting ready to conduct a citizen's arrest right on the spot. I tried to reassure him that was not my intention.
"I understand that she is just practicing. But she is practicing the wrong thing. It is illegal to park on the left side of the road. You must park on the right side with the passenger side of the car against the curb. If the driving examiner asks her to parallel park and she pulls across the road into oncoming traffic to park on the left side of the road, she will fail her test right there. I'm sure you don't want that."
I then proceeded to demonstrate, as best as I could, with my hands. A glance back into the car to see if I had made my point was met with four blankly staring eyes. I waited a few seconds for a sign of comprehension, but the silence quickly became uncomfortable so I repeated the hand gestures and added some pointing to the actual passenger side of the car and the curb. Still no response, so I prodded for a reply. "Do you understand what I am saying?"
This was met with a terse "Yes" in reply.
"So you know what to practice now, right?"
Again, stony silence. This time I resolved to hold my ground, but a 10-second eternity later my resolve failed.
"Okay then. Well, you have a nice day, and good luck on your test."
I then beat a hasty retreat, watching from the corner of my eye to see if my words had actually sunken in. The car moved not an inch while I continued up the sidewalk, until I turned a corner about 100 yards out. At that point I paused to sneak a look from behind the cover of some shrubs and trees. Sure enough, as soon as I passed out of sight the car started forward again, but this time the new driver made an attempt to park properly. Apparently my words did not fall on deaf ears, but dad refused to acknowledge his mistake in my presence. Pride is a funny thing.