Friday, May 2, 2014


It seems as though all of my posts lately have been about driving. Maybe that’s because it’s the part of Indian culture I encounter each morning or it’s the biggest challenge to me as of late. Regardless, this post isn’t so much about India but more about my continual evolution as a manual transmission driver.

Wednesday morning, nothing really new. I was going to drive myself to school. Along the way I was going to pick up a friend. Again, this is nothing new.

The only difference was that; since I knew he was going to have at least one suitcase, I decided instead of picking him up on the more main street, I’d turn down his lane. I thought, “No problem. I’ll just make a 3-point turn and he’ll be able to easily load his bag into the trunk.”

I turned left onto the lane. Then I turned left again into the start of a driveway. I pulled as far forward as I could since the gate was closed. About 2 feet. Then I shifted into reverse, turned the wheel to the right and reversed. Car. There’s a car. Right here. I put the car back into first, pulled forward and tried again. Same result. It didn’t take too long before I realized that the cars on either side of the lane with the combination of the available driveway length, were going to make my 3-point turn impossible.

“No problem,” I thought. I’ll just find another driveway. So I went further down the lane, which is a big hill, and found his apartment building’s garage entrance. I thought, “Hey, there’s lots of clearance and no cars. This is it. This is my 3-point moment.”

I pulled into the driveway and instantly went over a large hump. Not just any hump. I went over a huge regular sized speed hump. “No problem,” I thought again. I shifted into reverse and found that with the angle of the basement garage ramp, I was stuck and there was only one way out. Down.  Down into the garage. Down into the dark.

“That’s okay,” I thought again. “I can do this.”

On my left, I saw my good friends’ driver, Hamid. His eyes grew big and he waved at me. Not like a hello wave, a frantic, “What are you doing?” type wave. He quickly got into the driver’s seat of their car and pulled out of their spot thinking he was helping me to make my 3-point turn.

I looked at their spot and laughed out loud. There was no way I was going to be able to reverse park from a steep garage ramp.

Down again was the only option. Still not intimated by the scary basement garage, I took a deep breath, eased down the ramp and turned left. I again, since my car’s small, thought, “There’s plenty of room. I an do this.” I repeated the process I explained in detail earlier. The only difference is this time instead of quickly admitting defeat; I fought tooth and nail to make the turn.

I’m sure I looked like this scene in Austin Powers.  I swear to god it felt like I tried for about 5 minutes. In reality this maneuver probably only was 30 seconds of discomfort.

Back and forth and back and forth for each attempt. No progress.

I had a moment of worry. “Maybe I can’t do this? Maybe I need to call him? He’s waiting outside already for sure. He’ll just get the car out for me.”

And then I really don’t remember what I thought other than no. I looked ahead in the garage. This time the spaces I saw were actually big enough to meet my goal.  The 3-point.

Slowly I eased further into the bowels of the garage. I saw another friend’s car and next to it, an open space.  I actually turned my head to the right for a second glance because I thought, “There’s no way. Was this an actual open space or a mirage?” Luckily it was the former.

So a final left. A final shift into reverse. A final ease off the clutch and onto the gas and I was parked next to their truck.

I took a deep breath. I shifted the car back into first. I turned the wheel to the left and then right as I then gave it a little too much gas as I pushed the car up the ramp and out of the garage. Success at last. I made my 3-point turn.

I again gave a little too much gas, which resulted in that loud revving that you hear in movie stoplight scenes or in north central Illinois on Friday nights when the teenagers from the towns surrounding DeKalb come into show off their rides, but I was out of the dark and onto the tree-lined lane. 

I pulled forward past his building and parked on the right. I wasn’t quite parked as close to the curb, if there had been a curb, as I should have been but I’d made it. I started laughing out loud again just as he walked out with two big suitcases and a smile. I'd earned each and every one of the 3-points I made in the turn (and for those of you who are worried, I do know why it's called a 3-point turn just felt the effort I put in means I should earn points).