A recent Wall Street Journal article said that Nevada was joining more than a dozen other states and dropping the parallel parking requirement from its driver’s license test. No more will the nervous determination of that first-time driver be challenged. Many of us remember that moment when we shifted to reverse, turned our head and hoped for the best.
It’s true, that maneuver was the most difficult of the entire test, but we still did it. And that’s the point.
My suspicion for this decision was realized when the article stated the obvious: the primary reason for failure rates was the parallel park requirement. The failures then created a backlog of drivers needing to retake the test. In Maryland, the pass rate for the driver’s test went from about 50% to almost 70% a year after the requirement was dropped.
Today it seems when we are faced with adversity — long wait lines, a backlog or an over abundance of complaints — the powers to be acquiesce. They make things easier, faster, less obtrusive and less demanding — all in the name of progress. The “p” word is used more frequently today than it ever has been before. But is it progress or is it propitiation?
Could our expectations over time eventually be numbed, and what will the cumulative outcome be on society? Perhaps parking spaces will revert back to the old days when everyone pulled in diagonally, or maybe huge mall-like parking lots will be built so no one has to back up. I don’t think so, but that’s not my point.
The point is that complacency kills. It kills creativity, ingenuity and diminishes the “get-it-done” drive young and old are taught throughout their lives. It was not very long ago when our determination to see something through to the end was heralded, when getting back up after being knocked down was character building. If that “do it again until I do it” attitude slowly disappears, then where will we be?
When our daughter was learning to drive, it was in the only vehicle we had at the time, a Chevrolet Suburban. Along with the standard city and highway practice drives, in the high-school parking lot she learned to parallel park. She also gained confidence in completing a task she at first thought was impossible.
The day of her test, she pulled up in the Suburban. Other drivers waited in line behind her in awe at the girth of the vehicle in front of them.
The officer got in; there was a definite air of uncertainty as he buckled his seat belt. Perhaps a sly smile emerged suggesting disbelief that a teenager is going to attempt this test in “a tank.”
It happened just after a right turn at the stop sign. Large orange cones outlined the space, and in less than 15 seconds the Suburban was in its spot between the two cones with engine idling. The officer looked up from his scorecard, turned with a grin and said, “Young lady, there is no need to continue. If you can park this on your very first try, then you’ve passed. Congratulations.”
Given the time we are in right now, mutual resolve to support one another and see this pandemic through to its demise requires toughness by everyone. What’s in front of us may seem impossible, but how we face it will be our legacy.
A sign outside one of the local schools here says, “Tough times do not last forever, but tough people do.” This country has been through much in the past 244 years, and it has done so because of resiliency, steadfast resolve and our ability to do the impossible.
A long time ago, one man had the inclination to challenge all of us to do a hard thing. In a time of uncertainty, he chose a mission many believed could not be done. He chose for us as a country to do the impossible, and on July 20, 1969, the world watched as we Americans achieved the impossible by landing on the moon.
Those words spoken by President Kennedy seven years earlier at Rice University were a testament to the American spirit and fueled young and old to believe anything is possible. His words are important to read and remember today. Kennedy’s speech said it all about why we must do the things we do: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Does driving in reverse and successfully parallel parking equal a tough, forthright future decision maker? No, it does not. But complacency— taking the easy way out when the masses calls for it because lines are long or do-overs are now expected— will over time shift our paradigm, if it hasn’t already. So maybe a short drive in reverse every now and again just may keep us on our toes, present us with a challenge and maybe even remind us that yes, we can do anything.