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Life Chez Dee Episode #80: Stressful Manoeuvres

I popped to Aldi this morning; I go to Aldi most weeks to get most of my essentials in a big shop, the stocking up shop; it’s convenient, good quality, and cheap. The only thing I don’t like, is the car park. I like to go early as I find it easier to park. If I leave it too late in the day, it gets busy and the parking is hard. It’s underground, the spaces are narrow, there are lots of pillars to negotiate, there’s a lot of jiggling involved. If I go early, then not only can I find a space, but I can find the right one, a middle space. I don’t like going where you have to jiggle to get the car in, and jiggle to get the car out. I don’t like other cars parking right up against the boot of my car, so I struggle to load the shopping afterwards. I don’t like being near a pillar, not just as it’s hard to park there, but it’s also really hard to open the car door and I often find myself trying to squeeze out of the car through a four inch gap, being the limit of how far the car door will open because of the pillar.

It’s such a nightmare, and it’s not just Aldi, I have a favourite spot in Sainsbury’s too, I like those few wide spaces, ex parent and child spaces, no longer used for that, where the writing has been removed. I like parking in those spaces if I can get. Again it’s an underground car park, well it’s undercover anyway, so it’s dark, with narrow spaces, and lots of jiggling involved; the place you can find lots of spaces is miles away from the store, so I sometimes find myself going up onto the roof carpark as it’s often empty up there.

So I start thinking. Is it just me?? Does everyone have a favourite parking space? A favourite time to go shopping? Do others avoid having to jiggle in and out of spaces? I expect I’m not the only one!

Multi story car parks are another worry for me, I don’t like them at all! They’re soooo tight. Tight small spaces; tight turns up those ramps to the next level, often with foot high concrete edges to them. The car sensors beeping pretty much constantly as everything is getting near to them; it’s so stressful, for me anyhow. I can hear the sensors going off, beeping, but haven’t a clue why, just that there’s a flippin’ concrete edge that’s so near it’s likely to take out my sidelights. I’m such a wreck that I will not go in these multi storeys if I can help it, and certainly not in Justin’s company car. I might risk it if I’m in the mini. Justin doesn’t seem to worry … is it a man thing? I know I’m generalising, and there’s bound to be ladies out there who are at this point shouting at me for being sexist, but I think it’s true. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but I believe, and I am only talking in general terms, that the majority of women feel like me about parking, driving etc. I think men naturally have more spacial awareness, know the width of the car etc. Please don’t shout at me too much; if I’m wrong, I stand corrected … but it’s definitely true in my case!

Another stress is narrow gaps. Driving down country lanes or little roads, like in Cornwall. Huge walls on either side, millimetres between these great thick walls and the car, bushes and plants scraping the car as we pass oncoming vehicles with only a hairs breath between. And I’m squirming, leaning, breathing in, holding my breath …. like that’s going to make any difference … I do the same when lorries go past on the motorway, or when queuing in traffic and buses decide to squeeze past!

Wing mirrors are tricky things too … you’ll NEVER find me reversing into gaps where I’ve got to use my side mirrors. I’m not too bad at reverse parking, years of living in a place where reverse parking was a necessary sorted that one. If I hadn’t learned to do that, I’d never have parked the car … EVER. But I cannot for the life of me use my side mirrors. My brain just doesn’t work like that. I try and look in the mirror, but by the time my brain has worked out that reverse image, I’d rather look over my shoulder and work out where I’m going.

Using my side mirrors to reverse anywhere is likely to lead to trouble … and indeed once has. I never back on to the drive … well hardly ever … but this particular day I did so. I wanted to get stuff out of the boot of the car and it was just easier. I checked my mirrors, left, right, left, right, centre, left, right. Congratulating myself on negotiating the gates on the drive, I thought I’d straighten up a little, so a bit further, checking those mirrors, left, right, bit more … then BANG. What the heck was that? I say. Who left something in my way to hit? Well it was only the b****y house! Yes you read that right, I hit the house! Smashed the back light on the car. I couldn’t believe it. Like the house crept up on me!

How is it that there can be no one around during the day, and as soon as something like this happens you get the interfering busy body walking past your house. Yep, there she was … never seen her before in my life and yet as soon as I hit the house, there she was … thought she’d stop to helpfully point out that I’d hit the house, and did I know? “Yes I do know that thank you very much” … telling her to p*** off under my breath … like I don’t know!!

Justin was away. I ring him and say I’ve had an accident, and that I’ve hit the house. I can picture his face thinking how on earth does anyone hit a house? I mean, it’s not like it’s moving. Yes that was something that everyone in the office heard that day, so they all probably had a great chuckle at my misfortune.

Actually, now I come to think about it, that’s not the only reversing disaster I’ve had. I did reverse into the gates on the driveway at Justin’s parents’ house … the first day I met them. I remember going inside to tell his Dad, and because they didn’t really know me, they didn’t say much. Justin said his Dad hadn’t long put new gate posts in, so he must have been well and truly miffed about it, but he didn’t say anything.

And then there was the time that the boulder crept up on my when we were in the Lakes. I reversed out of the parking space at the holiday cottage, and there it was, lurking. But I have to say that there’s only one person in our house who has hit a bollard in a supermarket car park, and it wasn’t me!

So watch out folks, these things do creep up behind you when you’re least expecting it - beware.

I suppose I must at this point also come clean about another accident I had in a car … I’m going back 30 years or so, when I still lived at home with my parents. Taking mum and dad’s car out to meet friends, I’m on a steep hill, waiting to turn right, and the stupid driver in the oncoming car flashed me to go, slowed down, and then proceeded to plough into me … then denied that he’d flashed his lights!! [Now, even to this day, I’m wary of those flashing their lights for me to go!] I then had to go home and break the news to my dad that I’d had a bit of a bump . “Bit of a bump!” he yells “Bit of a bump!” he repeats, louder, and I swear an octave higher. “It’s banana shaped … you’ve bent the b****y chassis!” Mum wasn’t in, but I remember getting straight on the phone to my grandma, for sympathy, and moral support … “Nothing matters as long as you’re ok” she said, which I think sent dad’s stress levels escalating!

The other stress for me when driving is that I haven’t got a clue where I’m going, and I get very anxious and panicked when driving somewhere and I have no idea where I am. I have no idea whether I’m travelling North, South, East or West. Navigation is not my forte at all. I can’t read maps … hard enough when we’re working out a route and the map is laid out on the dining table and there’s no motion sickness to contend with. But when we’re in the car and Justin says have a look at the map … not a chance mate! I’m pretty inept at reading maps generally, but I’m certainly not going to try and work out where we are and feel sick in the process. Goodness, I’m so travel sick. I can’t look down, I can’t look round, I can’t read, and I have to look out of the front window … or else.

Why is it that blokes just seem to have an inbuilt sense of direction. Justin seems to always know which way to go, he can follow his nose and find the way. He says “I can just visualise a map of Britain with the motorways on it, so I just know which ones to take even if I have to get off one and get on another if there’s some traffic issue”. He says this like it’s normal to be able to do this!! I however, have to have access to google maps and the google lady helping me out, or I’ll have post it notes all over the dashboard, or I might even have to go on practice journeys prior to the journey itself. Justin is used to it now; I think he’s amused, either that or he’s exasperated, that I can’t even remember the way to go to places where we’ve been going for ever! But being a passenger, I have no idea the way to go, I’ve never driven it. I’m busy handing sweets to the kids, sorting the music, singing the songs, pointing out the scenery and other important stuff, rather than concentrating on the way we’re actually going.

Justin gets travel sick too, but rarely is as he’s so often driving. We don’t even decide who’s driving. It’s just a given that he’ll drive. Of course I don’t mind driving if we’re round and about town, but I would never get in the driver’s seat if we were both getting in the car, I’d automatically get in the passenger seat, and expect him to drive. William is never travel sick … EVER. We can go down windy lanes, he can be on his phone, on other gadgets, reading a book and he’s fine. Cars, trains, planes, boats or any other manner of transportation, it doesn’t matter; fairground rides no problem either. I can’t even turn around in the car to look at what the kids are up to without going green.

Edward and Oliver unfortunately took after me. They always need to face forward, no looking down at gadgets, and even take a travel sickness pill. Edward always wanted to sit in the middle seat too (that’s of course if he couldn’t persuade me to swap with him and let him sit in the front). Any trips which Oliver goes on by coach, whether with school, or with scouts, he’s given a pill so there’s no horrid incidents for them on the journey … you’re welcome.

Boat trips are a no no. Been there, done that, and written off so many days where I’ve felt really poorly for the rest of the day. I don’t know if it’s the motion, or if it’s the diesel fumes which do it, or a combination of both, but I’m not good on boats. On so many occasions I’ve taken travel sickness pills, but the trouble is that they do knock you out, and therefore I’ve felt myself very spaced out, even starting to nod off the rest of the day after taking these, and that’s the rest of the day wasted.

Some elderly drivers worry me, and I’ve witnessed some frightening manoeuvres over the years, with almost running down pedestrians on zebra crossings, driving through red lights, mounting pavements, and junction give way signs being completely missed. I’ve even seen an old dear drive straight out of a side road and cross both sides of a busy road, completely oblivious that they’d indeed ploughed straight across a main road. There are an unbelievable amount of prangs to vehicles locally, and so many of these in the car park in Booths, Lytham is just one example of where this is rife. I hear them revving their cars, with their foot so heavy on the accelerator that if their foot slips they’ll go shooting off and there will be more prangs of cars, or worse maybe even hit a child. Driving rules seem to change with the elderly it seems … driving long distances without several stops on route doesn’t happen; driving on the motorway, or any distance at night is not done, and especially if there are storms forecast; Saturday driving should be avoided, as should turning right onto major, busy, roads. Although much of this is very worrying, it is also rather funny, I just hope this won’t be me in years to come.

I think about all the driving Justin does, late at night, long distances, new routes, rainy motorways, hire cars, driving abroad …. I know I couldn’t do it, and yet I still regard myself as a good driver, just that my being comfortable driving comes with a few caveats, and hopefully not too many more as I get older!

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