by Almé Hugo
It is 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
You just finished a two-hour tutorial at the opposite end of campus and the weather is hot enough to turn Stellenbosch into Hell-enbosch for the time-being. But do not worry! You drove here. You can just jump in your car and drive back to your res/apartment/digs or (heaven forbid) CampusKey. As you approach your car you spot a blue-and-khaki coloured figure approaching. You try to speed up to your car but it’s no use. The predator has spotted you and their hunting instincts are relentless.
No cash? No problem. A card machine is whipped out from the khaki pants pocket and shoved in your face. Nothing is free in Stellenbosch. Even the parking is Winelands prices. For a moment you forget if you should tip or not…
But all is well! Ridiculously overpriced parking is paid and you are finally opening your car door. Wait. There’s something stuck in your wipers. It’s a parking ticket. Because your wheel barely touching the white line is sure to lead to the downfall of modern society and complete traffic anarchy. What can you do? Roll your eyes. Get in the car.
Peace at last as you drive through town. The only thing on your mind is your Klein Saterdag plans.
Until you arrive at your designated university parking bay. You know, the one you pay for and which is protected by access-control booms – unless the booms are broken or it’s loadshedding. Yes, that parking bay. The parking bay that is currently occupied by someone else. Lovely. You take a picture of the number plate but let’s not lie to ourselves, you would be lucky if the car is gone by tomorrow. And you are not a horrible person so you won’t park on someone else’s spot. You cut your losses and grumpily reverse out of the parking area. Time to hunt for a decent spot close to your building. It’s hot, you’re hungry and you just want to get into your room.
After about 15 minutes of driving around the block it is time to face the inevitable. There is a spot right outside your window… in parallel… between two other cars…
Calm down. You can do this. You got your driver’s licence (after the third try). So you pull up to the parking spot, heart pounding.
What were the steps that your driving instructor shouted at you again? Reverse until the side mirror is level to the back of the front car and turn? Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t there something about the window being level to the…
A car is approaching from the front. You start to sweat. The driver is slowing down and looking at you intently. You have an audience. Curse these impossibly narrow Stellenbosch streets!
Stop getting in your head and use your parking instincts. The ones that the parking gods gave you the day you got your car. As you look behind you you realise that the car dealership might have forgotten to give you your parking instinct membership. At least you have insurance. And now you’re wondering if your insurance would cover you ramming into the car behind you. The car in front of you looks impatient. There’s no more time to doubt.
Make like Nike and just do it.
Reverse, swivel, turn, straighten.
It’s going fine. You’re doing great. This is actually not that hard… Thwack.
And your back wheel is in the ditch. Perfect. Such great parallel parking. Don’t be ashamed of the tears pricking at your eyelids and the hot shame reddening your cheeks. We’ve all been there. The driver of the car in front of you gets out. Great, he’s probably going to ask where you bought your licence or some other witty question that implies you’re an awful driver.
But no… the man is offering kindly to help you park. Immediately, every last shred of feminism leaves your body. You gladly accept driving help from a man as you try to forget the entire Barbie movie. Gloria Steinheim is turning in her grave but you have successfully gotten your car into the unholy parallel position. You thank the man, almost sobbing with gratitude and lock your car before walking to your room. On your way you pass a Datsun bakkie that has shamelessly driven onto the sidewalk and just parked there. You should have done that.
That night you have a horrible nightmare about trying to find parking on campus.
And the next morning there’s a parking ticket on your windshield.