Thursday, 23 April 2009

Minor first world problems I am experiencing

Mirror, Signal, Shrieking terror

I have developed a morbid fear of parking the car. After driving fairly blithely around through the easter holidays I have now got what the French would term a blocage. Not good at spatial awareness related tasks at the best of times I am now physically incapable of parallel parking. Yesterday I am ashamed to say that I cried and swore and beat my tiny fists on my not at all tiny thighs trying to park for the spawn's ridiculous karate class. Eventually I parked on a zebra crossing on the pavement virtually in a bin (only place I could avoid parallel parking) somewhere where I had to climb across to the passenger side snivelling and ranting to exit the car. Lashes had to give me a hug which was shaming. When I pulled out of the space I nearly crashed into someone, compounding things even further. So now I have an urban driving phobia. It's really convenient.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can overcome it? The fear really kicks in when there is someone behind me and I have to parallel park in a speedy and efficient manner. I am completely incapable of doing so, and have to drive around the block hopelessly twenty five times until I get a grip, or someone moves. As a result we are now constantly late, wherever we are going and the car, which I have long loved as a rather pretty and delightful compromise vehicle in a Belgian Waffle shade of black, is filling me with dread.

I get no work done because I want to live with these people and I am in love with Caplin Rous

I don't know who this lady is but I love her. She is sharing her popcorn with a capybara. I like it when she kisses him, quietly on the side of the neck. He loves her too (or possibly just her cereal). Then she teaches him to beg for a popsicle.

Caplin Rous is spiritually British! "Huffing and clicking are signs of aggression". You are one of us, Caplin. Come, stand in the Post Office queue with me and we shall huff and click and tut. I have popsicles too. Come, touch me with your paw and I shall feed you all the ice lollies your giant hamster heart desires...

Also, what do these people do exactly? Because I want to be part of it. They have essentially turned their pet capybara, not on first sight, the most appealing of animals, with its scornful front teeth, into a cottage industry.

This house has a goddam microclimate

Welcome to the frozen steppes of Uccle. Outside, the mercury is grazing a balmy 20°. Here in the house, and particularly with the back door open (to allow the weepette to sit on the bench and look regal comme ceci:

rather than fidget neurotically around my legs), I am losing all sensation in my limbs. I had looked out a rather lovely parc du caca outfit of wide leg indigo linen trousers, pretty, slightly African patterned short sleeved top and red sandals. Now I am wearing linen trousers, African print top, a hoodie, a jacket, socks and slippers and I am still cold.

It's all my fault vol. 874

Lashes and I went, finally, to see the 'graphomotricienne' today, who I had imagined as a whiskery, pinched handwriting gorgon who would smell of menthol and talcum powder and fear. After a whole load of parking trauma (see above) we got there ten minutes late to find a delightful, jolly, intelligent woman who offered him a load of oozing green playdoh and was sweet and sensible and so kind I felt like laying my head on her large bosom and relating my woes from age 4 onwards. I didn't. I made myself scarce while she kicked a foam cube around with Lashes, ecstatic to have escaped the gulag briefly, and made him draw pictures and build towers and generally gave him a far more fun time than he gets either at school or at home.

She noted that Lashes, whilst brimming with native cunning and fun and imagination, does not have good motor skills, be they catching a ball (ugh!), handwriting (bleugh) or putting things together (brrrr). She showed me his hyper-mobile joints and we compared how far we could each bend our wrists and fingers back (a loooong way, both of us). We noted that, like his mother, he has difficulty distinguishing left and right, and has a tendency to bump into things or misunderstand practical instructions. Poor Lashes, doomed to be picked last for team sports just like me. She also wondered about his eyesight, which is clearly also doomed, when you look at his parents. The child has a grim genetic heritage where coordination is concerned, and it's all my fault.

No matter. I love her and she will spend an hour playing with my son and, I think, actually rather liking him, unlike the gulag hags. (Yes, I am still having first world pangs about the gulag)

Tune in next time when I will tell you how the cleaner shrank my dry clean only cashmere, the travails of finding decent organic vegetables and why it's impossible to find decent staff these days. Joke, JOKE.

In fact, tune in tomorrow for APRIL CONFESSIONAL. Have you been bad? Very bad? You have, haven't you. I can sense it.


Evitchka said...

The only way out of your driving phobia is to get a gorgeous young male chauffeur. But as you said it is so hard to find good staff these days. How about the delicious Mexican you espied the other day?

Anonymous said...

My first suggestion about driving is illegal. However, swift action is needed or full-on agoraphobia can envelope one with a hatred of trams and fear of driving very quickly. I speak from experience--a year or two spent crouched on a radiator, peering suspiciously out my apartment window in Toronto, running to hide under the duvet when anyone would knock, and climbing into the bathtub when the phone would ring. The only cure is luring yourself out with treats, and giving yourself plenty of time to arrive. Difficult with two children, I know.

My prescription for young L. is more video games to develop the hand-eye coordination. At dog-training class the other night, the trainer remarked that no one could possibly master her pro tips quickly, unless they had played a lot of video games. Cue slow turn of head and self-satisfied smirk from husband.

Also sorry I did not complete your brilliant exam. It was so good, but I test so badly. I really like the idea of a tiny clip-on harness to achieve the tort brooch.

Bath bun said...

Parallel parking with someone close behind you is doomed in Belgium whatever your skill level. Even if you indicate, go slow, whatever, they still cannot anticipate your next move.

Don't worry about Lashes - 2 of my brood have been labelled 'dispraxic' which I think is politically correct for 'butter fingered', and have had lots of 'special education support' imposed on them. But what can you expect when their mother specialises in driving into stationary objects and walking into things which aren't even in her way.

Anonymous said...

I got my drivers license more than 10 years ago and have driven a car twice since (within a week of getting the license), otherwise I am too scared to face the traffic. I rely on public transportation, and avoid moving anywhere there isn't. You could try parking when you are not in a rush (I realize that may be a rarity) to get over it, especially since you managed well over the holidays. Or put a "Beginner Driver" sticker on your car...

nappy valley girl said...

I think I suffer from the same parallel parking phobia. Mine is exacerbated by there being trees very near the pavement in my street, which I have bumped on more than one occasion. Is there a support group do you think?

Thank God I am moving to the US, where all houses seem to come with a personal 3 car carport.

Red Shoes said...

I am completely transfixed by the pet capybara. I don't know what to think. I just keep watching.

Regarding the driving, has it always been this way for you? Is the anxiety new? I feel like this may be a manifestation of some other fear or anxiety. I have experienced something like it myself in the past... became terrified to drive over bridges, was certain I would drive off them.I still did it (living in a city surrounded by water, it's impossible not to) but it caused me to panic each time and the root was far deeper. Had to do with people's expectations of me and my complete terror that I could not meet them. Perfectionism strikes again. I'm better now. If it continues... maybe go see the graphomotricienne?

p.s. I don't know what a graphomotricienne is.

The Spicers said...

I share your driving phobia, especially trying to parallel park with cars waiting behind. I get nervous just thinking about it. I'm also uncomfortable driving with anyone in the car other than my children and didn't get my license until I was 24. I tried taking up flying single-engine planes to cure myself several years ago, and now I have a new fear...

The Spicers said...

Oh, and thanks a lot! Now my kids are begging for a pet cabybara.

Anonymous said...

Why not call a driving instructor, preferably a woman, tell her you have trouble parallel parking and book a lesson or two? If you can use your own car, better still. It's well worth the cost for the satisfaction, believe me. I would drive to my destination, then turn round and come home in despair till I did this. You don't want to know how I couldn't make right turns (I'm in the UK) for years!

Z said...

I have only driven in Brussels once, ten years ago, but I loved it. I adored the casual way in which people parked all around the corners and across the zebra crossings, and that they drove far too fast and therefore had to remain alert, unlike British drivers who are bad-tempered because of all the speed cameras and so drive within the limit but vengefully. So I think you should just relax and drive exactly as you are.

On the other hand, if you really need to parallel park, drive to a quiet place, choose a smallish space and keep trying, remaining unembarrassed, until you get it right. You can do it, honestly - it's just the shame of being watched that makes you incapable. Age helps, because then you no longer give a fuck what people think.

I have a confession for your April confessional that I find v. bad, but I think you will think is quite normal. But it's a first for me.

Gabriella said...

Oh the driving phobia! When I first learned to drive years and years ago, I couldn't have the radio on because I found it too distracting, and I refused to make left hand turns (across oncoming traffic). And parallel parking? Forget it! Even though, for 7.5 years, I had a 60 mile daily work commute (now reduced to 8 miles of white-knuckle terror) I still hate driving and avoid it at all costs. Thank goodness my city has decent public transportation.

As for getting over the fear of parallel parking, one must simply decide that all other drivers need to either wait for you to park or get out of your way. (I call this The Drive Like an Old Lady Method.) If they honk, wave cheerfully. If you've put on your indicator and everyone is piling up on your backside, put the car in reverse and move ever so slowly backwards (smiling and waiving here is helpful too) until the other cars either go around you or back up to give you space. If this doesn't work honk AND wave cheerfully. Eventually everyone will go away and let you park in peace.

In my experience this works well even during rush hour in large American cities, where people are generally angry and insane about driving. The point is to remain oblivious to anyone else's discomfort and maintain a cheerful demeanor (even if your hands are shaking, you are sweating like a stevedore, and your heart is beating like a hummingbird’s wings.) You can sit in the car and pant/compose yourself once you get into the spot.

The best parallel parking advice I was ever given was to ignore the curb entirely and focus on the headlights of the car in the space behind you. If you do your best to put your taillights against their headlights, you should be able to glide into the space with one try or two at most. Maybe three on a bad day…

sue said...

I'm a shit parker. The end. Please don't worry about lovely Lashes, he will be fine, little boys are allowed to be a bit awkward, the child didn't speak til he was four and all the experts said he was going to have problems. Now he is ten and never stops talking, even in his sleep.

I so want a capybara. I must now google capybara breeders.

indigo16 said...

The ONLY time I have ever managed to parallel park was when I was talking on my mobile,Like so many things in life the more we think about them the harder they are to do.
I have all but given up driving and If I ever have to park in a multistory I always head to the top to avoid the pillars. as for street parking, it is so painful, the car generally looks like it was abandoned after a hasty bank job.
I feel your pain.

redfox said...

I love capybaras too much, I cannot help it. But they are so noble! Just look at him.

As for driving, there you are driving on the wrong side of the street from the one you started with, are you not? I have never yet been able to bring myself to drive in the UK at all, as the whole thing is terrifying and backwards and wrong. (This despite the fact that I spent many formative hours as a passenger in a car in summers in Suffolk with my grandparents and many formative hours not in cars in intervening school years at home with my non-driving mother--all those roads all around me most of the time and on which I eventually learned to drive still worked the American way.) Even if you've been doing it this side of the street for ages, you still grew up with it the other way around, and surely imprinted that way. This is all to say that you labor under a great burden, and it is a wonder that you have held up as well as you have.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a bad parallel parker, but Porsche Guy is amazing! He can parallel park a big 40-foot truck faster than I can open my garage door! But like all masters, he operates on instinct and can't explain to me exactly how he does it. But perhaps it would help to observe him? I'll send him over if you like (he's never been to Belgium, but he does like beer).

GingerB said...

Jaywalker, I feel your pain, having bashed up my car 3 times in about six months or so. I love the idea of getting a woman instructor to help you - I cannot let my husband give me advice or I have to sob and be angry that he exists. I assume you are talking about a physical or occupational therapistfor Lashes? I say if you see him improving with the techniques just keep at it because anything that gives him a boost in self esteem is worth every penny and every hour you spend. If I could have reduced my self loathing some during my teenaged years, I might have smoked a lot less pot, and just think how much more clever I'd be as I get old and my body breaks down.

I am so excited about the confessional I think I might go do something bad to Lord Honey so I can tell.

wv: wisdi - cute little bit of wisdom of not much help to anyone except people who like cute shit

Anonymous said...

Driving in Brussels is HELL! Belgians are the rudest and most impatient people on the road - they accelerate at pedestrian crossings, park anywhere, jump lights and seem to have their hand permanently on the horn. I NEVER drive any more here as it is a terrifying experience.

Waffle said...

Evitchka - wouldn't that be marvellous. Ah, for independent means.

Vanessa - I love the idea of you hiding under your duvet from the world and would gladly join you. We need never leave, surely?

Bathbun - hmm, yes. The old dispraxia thing. In our day we were just plain clumsy, etc etc etc. Yes. Also with the falling over and walking into things. It's the British way, dammit!

Anon - it is nice to know I am not alone. I have peaks and troughs, with the driving, but this is a serious trough. Ah well, the planet will love me.

Red Shoes - a sort of motor skills lady, but not in the sense that would be useful for me with the parking. Caplin Rous. Global superstar in the making.

Iheart - PLANES??? really? wow.

Anon - perhaps I should. But the horror of driving lessons again? It was bad enough first time..

Z - I agree entirely, it's the shame. SHAME. Burning shame. I look forward to your confession, but as you say, I am already in the fiery pit, so am unlikely to be shocked.

Gabriella - ah, it is not good is it. I have the shame and the fear and they will not leave. I must embrace my inner old lady.

Sue - I am not worried about his handwriting, but more about his spirit being crushed by the gulag. I must make up my mind whether this is a real problem or not. Bah. We must all have capybaras. Become a breeder!

indigo16 - yes, that is almost certainly true about the distraction, but short of getting lashes to bark sums at me, I am not sure how to recreate it. and he does that anyway and it doesn't help at ALL.

redfox - and also, we have to have a BIG car, when I can totally cope with a LITTLE one. Just because it has a fancy schmancy thing that goes bip bip bip does not mean I can magically park it.

pinklea - ooh yes, send him over. I will ply him with beer and try to discern his secret ninja skills;

GInger - yes, she seems delightfully positive and likely to make him like himself more. Which is worth €35 of anyone's money. In this case the bank's. CHeers, ING.

Dragondays - ha, they are furry baby pandas compared with Parisians. I could NEVER drive in Paris. Here, I at least give it a go. Noone has threatened me with a tyre iron, which would be a daily occurrence back in the 17ème...

Jessica K said...

You must get over the fear - fear is the reason I still cant drive and it is crippling my life.
My middle angel child has spent years in speech therapy and I blame myself for not taking away his pacifier (dummy I think you call it) and security blanket earlier. But he was so fearful and clung to them. And then I blame myself for his fear and timidity. Then he got teased for the speech difficulties and for going to speech class. So I have achieved the holy trinity of mother guilt, with the holy water of "it probably wouldnt have happened if you stayed home" thrown in.
I think a capybara would cheer him up and he would forgive me for screwing him up.

Liberty London Girl said...

I think I mentioned before but I had ZACK same probs as Lashes, and too went off to see a nice lady in Hampstead every Sunday (we lived in Kent so was a 2hr journey) to do exercises and walk down corridors coordinating arm and leg movements. I ended up having rather nice handwriting somewhere around age 10 but basically am dyspraxic. This is why learning recently that I love to exercise (see recent post) is such a revelation as group classes were such a horror at school of crying, being picked last, falling over that I thought I hated all exercise when it turns out I just hate games & gym. LLGxx

Liberty London Girl said...

ps am blind too xx

Liberty London Girl said...

pps I still fall over everything & nothing.

Even when sober


lisahgolden said...

Parallel parking I can do. Try doing it quickly - don't over think. Line up close to the front car, get your back bumper lined up with its back bumper, turn your wheel and back in as quickly and safely as possible, turn your wheel again when you've almost reached the curb. Have your middle finger at the ready (a manicure may be in order) for any horn honkers waiting for you to finish.

Did I just sound like a guy with that advice? Anyway, it's kind of like ripping off a Band-aid. Do it fast.

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