I have always been amazed by one particular ability of mine. I say this with hesitation because there are not many things about myself that amaze me. The fact that I am six foot five amazes me. The fact that my walls are lined with bookshelves filled with books that I have been incapable of finishing amazes me. The fact that I am thirty eight and still confused about what it is that I am going to be when I grow up amazes me. But none of these are talents (I apologize here for using but at the beginning of a sentence. The fact that I am a hypocrite also amazes me, since last Friday in my English class I told my students never to use the word but at the beginning of a sentence). They are more like physical attributes and behavioral characteristics that I have somehow inherited from my parents. However, my ability to parallel park in any spot, no matter how tight- this is a talent that I have developed all on my own.
Ever since I began parallel parking at the age of fifteen, I displayed a natural talent. I learned how to drive in my mothers Cadillac, which was more like an elongated boat rather than an automobile. Getting this vehicle into cramped spots was no easy task (my mothers inability to do so was demonstrated by the large amount of dents on her bumper). I practiced parallel parking in her car for hours at a time, never once indenting her bumper. When I took my drivers test the instructor was impressed by the fluidity with which I snuggled my vehicle in between two park cars. I remember him saying to me that if I was this graceful at squeezing my way in and out of things that I was going to make a dam good lover to many lucky ladies. Once I received my drivers license I was able to impress my friends and potential lovers with what they began to call my stealth parallel parking abilities. I earned a reputation. For fun most teenagers ride dirt bikes, play sports, go to movies and drink beer….I parallel parked.
I have parallel parked in some of the tightest spots around the world. In piazzas in Italy, on the small cobble stoned streets of Spain, in the desert sand of Israel and in the market places of Thailand and Vietnam. I have parallel parked effortlessly and with mastery. It has taken me a long time to accept that my gift or my greatness is my ability to parallel park. I have always hoped that my greatness was more in the realm of the arts or humanities- but at some point in every mans life he has got to accept the deck of cards that he has been dealt. So I may not be the next Tolstoy or Picasso. I may not create a body of paintings that will be viewed in a modern museum of art or write a book that will be on the New York Times best sellers list but I am content knowing that I can parallel park as well as Picasso, Klee or De Kooning could paint. My greatness will not land me on the cover of a magazine or into the millionaires club but I, and only I- have the satisfaction of knowing that if there was an appreciation for parallel parking in this world…I would go down as one of the greatest parallel parkers that ever lived.