Every weeknight at around 6:30 p.m., I put on a public show for my neighbors called “Girl with Tennessee Plates Tries to Parallel Park.” It is my greatest feat to date that even when I’m not technically parallel parking, but rather just pulling into a spot, I always run into a curb. Sometimes, when I try to straighten out my car, I will run into the curb again. If my neighbors are lucky, this will happen at least two more times. But I never allow them to applaud me or ask for an encore. Instead, I sit in my car and pretend to pack up my things until they leave. I don’t want to seem too conceited.
Despite this, believe me when I say that I’m not a bad driver. I just get stage fright and I live on a very busy street. Also I haven’t had to parallel park in an entire year. I’m a little rusty yet. Those other Boston drivers? They have no excuse.
Boston is a terrifying place to live. In fact, if you are looking only at driving ability, the entire East Coast is a terrifying place. My journey to MA took me all the way through Virginia, past Washington D.C., and then through Baltimore, Philly, and NYC. Virginia was all pleasant and peaceful, and I passed each of the four other cars on the highway with ease. Immediately when I crossed the state border, things got a little dicey. All of a sudden there were people everywhere and the highway split off into five thousand different directions and even though no one was gaining any land, I was hard-pressed to find anyone who wanted to let me into their lane.
I am used to being an “aggressive” driver, because in Knoxville people often drive 20 on a road with a speed limit of 45, plus everyone freaks out if it’s raining. Here, I am the driver that everyone hates. I like to think that the reason they all hate me is because they are the terrible drivers and are jealous of my skillz, and statistics show that I’m right. Travel and Leisure voted Boston number 33 out of 35 for driving ability on a list of major cities. You know why?
Because sometimes, you are driving to the grocery store, minding your own business, just heading straight through a green light. And there is someone heading the opposite direction as you, but turning left at the light, who is politely stopped, waiting for a green arrow. (This person is probably from out of town.) Then, out of nowhere, someone four cars behind Mr. Polite Driver will pull out into your lane, screech around Mr. Polite, and turn left in front of you as you are headed through the intersection. That person will probably look like this:
Instead of freaking out and slamming on your brakes and honking at the person, you’re supposed to act all nonchalant and continue about your day. Because if you slam on your brakes, people will honk at you. Even though really you want to react like this:
It’s really a miracle that the entire city hasn’t burst into flames as a direct result of car accidents.
Another “big city” thing that one must worry about in Boston is the presence of street cleaning. When I went to SLU, I was incredibly diligent about this. I parked on the street every day for class because I was a cheapskate and refused to pay for a parking pass, and so I made it my job to avoid parking tickets to make sure this situation helped me save money instead of losing it. Although I would have had to get approximately 40 parking tickets in one semester to actually lose money in this manner. Well, last week when I moved in to my sublet, I noticed a sign on the street warning residents about Monday morning street cleaning. “Oh,” I thought, “I must remember this, lest I get a parking ticket and lose all my hard-earned money that I was going to spend on chips and salsa.” This morning, I cheerfully walked on out of my apartment and noticed that there were no other cars on my side of the street. My constant inner monologue commented on this fact but assumed that every single person on that street had left for work before 7:30 that day. So I head to work as usual and as I’m driving down I-93, I see something waving around on my windshield. “Oh schneikes,” I thought, and that was the last I saw of my parking ticket as it flew away into the morning sun. Hopefully a bird manages to make a nest out of it, or it lands on someone else’s car and they track me down and befriend me, a la Disney’s Paperman. In the meantime, I have to track down and befriend the lovely people at city hall.
Maybe once I pay my parking ticket some sort of spell will be broken and I won’t have any more driving woes.