The first time I ever drove was when I was in elementary school. An extremely hungover Theresa ordered food from the seafood restaurant around the corner. It was simple enough: A left, a right, a right, a right a right, a right and the park. Only three instances of oncoming traffic, one of which at a traffic light. Technically not even out of our neighborhood. I made it down our street well. I stopped at the stop sign. I tried to turn left and careened into a ditch because I did not realize how far one needed to turn the wheel to make a car make a 90-degree turn. Years passed before I got behind the wheel again.
Fast forward to Maryland when I was an early teen. My brother-in-law at the time knew I was going to learn to drive soon and figured he would give me some pointers.
“Driving backward is hard,” he said (or something like that). “If you learn that first, going forward is easy.”
Well, he had an early 1980s two-door Oldsmobile Delta 88. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s 218 inches long. That’s comparable in size to the Chevrolet Suburban. I shit you not.
So, here I am — 14 years old — having my second driving experience ever wheeling a vehicle in one larger than a goddamned Chrysler Pacifica minivan backwards. But I did it. I was mortified, but I did it.
But I typically avoid going in reverse. Back into a space? No. Back down a long driveway? Watch me lose my nerve and run off to the side. Get out of a tight space? Witness this 10,000-point turn to turn my car around first.
That all changed recently.
I’m chalking it up to how I learned to parallel park when I moved to Richmond. (If you don’t know how to fit a 190-inch car in a 200-inch space, you aren’t parking in that city.) I now park in a parking garage every day at work. Occasionally, parking there is pure garbage, and the best and only way to get into a spot is to back in. The alternative is to go up a level or two. I never take the elevator, but I’ll gripe about having to take the stairs all the way to the top, so I’ve started backing into spaces to make them work.
I have been backing in like a dream. I’ve even been backing in at home lately.
Once you go backwards with a 18-foot, two-door car, throwing anything else in reverse when you don’t overthink it is a piece of cake.
But don’t ask me to back down a long driveway just yet.