Parallel parking is hard. There's a reason everyone fails it on the driver's test -- myself included.
When people come to visit us, they often say something like "I can't believe you have to parallel park! I could never do it!" Well, yes you could. If you were faced with the choice to either 1. drive around indefinitely looking for a wide, open parking space or 2. manage somehow to parallel park in the space in front of your house, I guarantee that you'd start learning how to parallel park. It's just like learning how to drive a stick shift: it seems impossibly hard before you know how, you'll stall out a whole lot in the beginning, and after a few months (uh, maybe weeks for people who learn faster than I do) it will feel so natural that you won't be able to explain it to others. Five years later, when your boyfriend asks you to teach him how to drive stick, you'll run through half a tank of gas in an empty parking lot, saying things like "no, you let of the clutch WHILE pressing down the gas -- no, not EXACTLY at the same time, but sort of, like... I don't know! You just DO IT!"
You (meaning, I) can't really learn how to parallel park unless you're forced to do it ALL THE DAMN TIME. After four years of living in the hell that is overcrowded street parking, I have a black belt in parallel parking. I'll admit that I suck at judging whether or not I can fit into a space -- sometimes, just for the hell of it, I'll try to get into a space that I'd swear wouldn't hold a SmartCar and what do you know? I'm in it on the first try. Other times I'll think I've got a spot nailed, and after trying ten times to get my rear bumper to fit into it, I'll realize that my Jetta cannot, in fact, fit into a space two and a half feet wide. But give me a space that's actually wide enough and I can get my car into it, regardless of side of the street (I do favor parking on the right), whether the space is on a 45-degree incline, even if there's a screaming cat pissing on my backseat while I'm trying to cut the wheel. My one weakness: An audience.
If someone else is in the car, I invariably screw up the parking job. I think that stage fright is a pretty universal phenomenon, and that leads me to my point here: yesterday I saw a girl trying to park her sedan in a space that was plenty big. She was having trouble, but she was making progress. UNTIL, this dude walking by appointed himself her Official Parking Assistant. He stopped walking and stood in front of her, making motions with his hands and yelling instructions. "No, you've got plenty of room! Keep coming, keep coming! KEEP COMING, you've got space! OK, stop, CUT THE WHEEL, CUT THE WHEEL!"
People in Baltimore do this ALL THE TIME. It's happened to me on more than one occasion, and I just don't get it. Do these people actually think they're helping? The girl last night was visibly annoyed and embarrassed, but she muttered a thank-you when she got out of her car because the helpful Samaritan was just standing there, waiting to be congratulated for his good deed. Once I saw a girl abandon a perfectly good parking space because some creepy dude "helped" her parallel park and then hung around her door, waiting to be thanked.
So here's my public service announcement for the week: If you see someone trying to parallel park, LEAVE THEM ALONE. No one wants an audience when the tap the bumper in front of them. Uh, not that I've ever tapped anyone's bumper. Those scratches were on my car when I got it.