I read a long time ago – too long ago to remember any sense of where I found this information, or even in what context – that the majority of Australians who hold a driver’s license consider themselves to be an above-average driver. Given the inherent limitations of the bell-shaped curve, this is a literal impossibility: we can’t all be above-average, or statistically, there would be no average to be above. It’s just that “average” is a higher standard than we automatically assume.
Partly for that reason, I have no qualms about saying that I’m an average driver. I’m not a bad driver – I’ve had a few tickets (ahem) but I’m a safe driver, I’m not a lead-foot, and I’ve even got all my demerit points.
I can’t claim to be of average ability when it comes to parking, however. I can’t even claim to be slightly below average. The truth is that I’m an atrocious parker. My spacial awareness is terrible, and my confidence is worse, especially when I have to reverse park. Especially when I have to reverse park my tiny bright blue car in front of a pub, and there is a table full of drinkers watching me, beers in hand.
I’d put my ratio of success:failure at about 70:30 when it comes to reverse parking (I’m quite proud that I’ve increased this ratio from about 50:50 since I first moved to Newcastle – there’s a lot of reverse parking around here), but this one I completely fumbled. My back wheels gently bumped against the curb, my nose was stuck out like an ill-placed elbow, and the table full of drinkers was watching me. Oops.
I’d just decided to cut my losses and try to find another park when the driver of the car parked in front of me turned on her engine and started to move forward. Brilliant – this would allow me to have another go at straightening up, with a bit more space to play with, once she drove out. But she didn’t drive out. She simpy moved foward, gave me enough space to fix my disasterous attempt to park, and turned her engine off again. She moved her car for no other reason than to make life a little easier for me.
I often feel that I’m separated from other people – by what I’ve been through, by what I’ve survived, by the fact that I’ve taken a beating in public and no one intervened, by the fact that been humiliated in front of people by the vitriolic lash of verbal abuse, by the fact that I have panic attacks and flashbacks and people don’t always have the capacity to help, and real people don’t necessarily understand. But today, a complete stranger inconvenienced herself on my account. She did something simply to give a stranger a small break, an action commenced and concluded entirely to help another person. Because that other person is worth something. Because we’re human souls together and we can do things, little things, to make life just a bit easier for each other. Because she was kind.
It’s a small deal, really, but it’s a pretty huge deal. Plus it was a good parking spot.