My seventeen-year-old daughter is learning to drive. While she is having lessons with the estimable Jay, whose patience should nominate him for sainthood, she must also practise with us. In fact, as I write, she is manoeuvring around Cambridge, muttering to herself, while her father has quiet palpitations in the passenger seat.
Last Thursday, it was my turn. I got off lightly, as she said she wished to practice parallel parking and bay parking. She drove me competently enough, deftly negotiating the medieval town bridge across the river, to a deserted carpark. There we drove into and out of parking bays, backed for two car lengths, and drew up parallel to the right kerb and to the left.
And I learned something completely new!
Now, when I learned to drive, some - mumble, mumble but more than forty mumble – years ago, I don’t think I had to do any bay parking in my test. I do, however, remember not quite hitting the cyclist who appeared out of nowhere, and then pulling up neatly outside the test centre where the examiner said, in a tone of deep reservation, “Well, you’ve passed – just.” I don’t think he was quite happy about signing me off.
There is an exact science to bay parking, it appears.
My daughter positioned herself – and the car – opposite her chosen bay, lining up her wing mirrors with the white line. She engaged full lock, drove into the bay, straightened up at what I considered the last minute and drew forward far further than I thought wise. This is my car; surely I know where my front bumper is!
“Mummy,” she explained, in accents of exasperated condescension, “You wait until the front line of the bay is just below your wing mirror and then you stop.”
I got out and inspected her parking. She was exactly in the centre of the bay and completely straight, with the bumper a precise foot away from the front white line.
Then she did it again. And again. This method actually works!
So, now I’m using it too. It’s such a simple way to park but it’s something I didn’t know. And that I didn’t know I didn’t know.
We all have these moments of illumination in our lives. We discover, or are taught something so simple, yet transformational, and an area of our lives is relieved from frustration.
Sometimes these are little things and sometimes more significant. One of my most significant discoveries of recent years was finding I am extremely gluten intolerant. Having just spent the whole of the bank holiday weekend miserably incapacitated by a four-day migraine courtesy of a stock cube and a handful of cheesy corn chips, I’m so grateful this is now a rarity. I read the labels on everything now – except when I don’t – and then suffer.
What simple discoveries have you made which have transformed an area of previous frustration? I’d love you to share with us. We might learn something new too.
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